For a creek, I had the drainage ditch
dug behind the row of streets. In it:
Mtn Dew bottles half full of piss, party
balloons, tadpoles and toads, splinters
of fish. Someone claimed they saw
a turtle and I spent a whole week wading
against the current, shins slathered
with leaves, looking, and seeing instead
a snake slip across a rock like rain.
If you walk along the ditch’s grassy banks
from here, it will take you back to
Second Street, then Scott Hamilton
(the name a mystery to me for years),
to those first places I called home
in this country. One has a balcony that,
when it was ours, held nothing but air.
The one on Second is street level, dark
and shuttered, but I know what it’s like inside:
nubby carpet that sandpapers bare feet,
the walls damp with shower steam
and nothing ever dries, this place where
I first learned to be scared of being alone,
where I buried my first bird. The ditch
will take you all the way back to my
elementary school, the track eight loops
of which make one mile, and the rusty
hinges of the swings where, after school,
no one as witness but the crows, my mother
confessed she didn’t know how to swing.
So if you saw us, hurtling through
the late fall day, gripping our chains,
racing each other to the top, you would
never guess it was me who taught her
how to become your own engine of push
and pull, how to give your body to air.