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,
and flip-flopped down the street,
further down where the gutters hung low
and siding was black in the creases,
grass brown and tipping over
through the bent chain link.
“You love him,” they teased.
“You love that black boy.”
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.
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.
your gums pink like a slick worm,
pink like the pads of cat paws,
pink like a lily,
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
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.