We lived in the lucky world—
not the far place where flies
sipped at eye corners
of children too weak to cry.
A camera showed that world to us
on posters. But we were children.
We wanted most to not be those
others, with their terrible bones.
We spoke of them wide-eyed, with
what we thought was tenderness.
But our words came in a different register,
as if to speak of such betrayal
by the grown world could bring
a harm of great immensity
upon us too. We got to choose
from the cupboard. We gave
what we hated—beets, peas,
mushrooms. Our dreams
were not of rice. The moon
laid light on our bicycles propped
against the porch. Sycamores
became our giants standing guard;
the overgrown shrub, our fort. We thought
we understood what was required.
Even crouched beneath our desks
during drill, we said one prayer
for the fear, one for recess.
McClellan Air Force Base
sent forth big-bellied planes
that rattled the windows
of our houses. Evenings, we took
to the streets shrieking
with joy, rode madly fast
around the block. We collapsed
on the lawn breathless, the earth
cool beneath us & pounding hard,
as if it had one great heart.
As if it was ours.