Sometimes in early evening neighborhood kids
played in the unfinished house,
or sat in the saddle-seat of the front-loader
ditched on the future lawn.
We were children; we went where we wanted,
skirting the backyards under the salt of stars.
If you stuck a flashlight in your mouth
you could see the blood inside the cheeks,
but not the bones. Two tin cans and a taut string
made a telephone through which a voice
could be heard but not understood.
Walky-talkies sputtered and failed.
To whom did I imagine I was speaking?
Someone invisible in the airwaves,
hidden in the infinite leaves of June.

How strange, to send out words,
like fishing without a hook,
just a glittering lure cast into space
baited with some morsel of kid-consciousness,
who knows what now, probably
the wish for a horse, or a spell
to ward off the alcoholic tang of aftershave
on my shirt, man-perfume
surviving the laundry unforgotten.

The daughter of a famous ornithologist
lived down the street. Once, she opened
her father’s shallow drawers for us:
hummingbirds, eyeless, row upon row,
uncountable, identical, with anklets of gold wire.
Like those tiny bodies—fusty, perfect,
labeled, dead—the children are mute now,
abandoned to dream of their fears
and amnesias as best they can.


Places I've Been

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