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How I Learned to Walk

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Calláte. Don’t say it out loud: the color of his hair,
the sour odor of his skin, the way they say
his stomach rose when he slept. I have
done nothing, said nothing. I piss in the corner
of the room, the outhouse is far, I think
orange blossoms call me to eat them. I fling rocks
at bats hanging midway up almond trees.
I’ve skinned lizards. I’ve been bored. It’s like
that time I told my friend Luz to rub her lice
against my hair. I wanted to wear a plastic bag,
to smell of gasoline, to shave my hair, to feel
something like his hands on my head.
When I clutch pillows, I think of him. If he sleeps
facedown like I do. If he can tie strings
to the backs of dragonflies. I’ve heard
of how I used to run to him. His hair still
smelling of fish, gasoline, and seaweed. It’s how
I learned to walk they say. Calláte. If I step
out this door, I want to know nothing will take me.
Not the van he ran to. Not the man he paid to take him.
Mamá Pati was asleep when he left. People say
somehow I walked across our cornfield
at dawn, a few steps behind. I must have seen him
get in that van. I was two. I sat behind a ceiba tree,
waiting. No one could find me.

Source: Poetry (November 2015)
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How I Learned to Walk

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