Cara Rodriguez–At Seven

Cara Rodriguez–At Seven

 

At seven years old

a boy would walk with me,

trod through the field with me

on my way home each day.

He left me at my house,

waved good-bye,

and flip-flopped down the street,

further down where the gutters hung low

and siding was black in the creases,

paint peeling,

grass brown and tipping over

through the bent chain link.

 

“You love him,” they teased.

“You love that black boy.”

 

I didn’t,

but I didn’t not love him either,

his tall frame and long arms

dangling like broken hangers as we lolled along,

his large grin, not sure of anything.

 

John Floyd,

your pink tongue

a thick salmon in your mouth,

spoke of your father

who worked at the rail yard,

who came home streaked with coal,

who didn’t own a shirt without a hole or a stain.

 

John Floyd,

your gums pink like a slick worm,

pink like the pads of cat paws,

pink like a lily,

pink

like my own embarrassed cheeks,

I remember only once

that your mouth grew wide with torment,

and your white teeth showed themselves to the world.

A sound rose from your young belly

like thousands of years of birth and death,

and anger filled your fists as you sealed

them to your ribs.

 

All this as you wept and wept.

 

I could not stand to look

and so I stared at my knees,

at my picket fence, at the witness clouds

and saw

white, white, white.

 

Later, sitting on the curb, the cement hot and rough under our legs,

the dried salt streams on your face

felt like chalk under my thumb,

and the pink rims of your eyes

were small sad smiles.

 

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