What we think of when we’re told Go Home

Pinewood slats pulled up
from where they met the front door,
then re-laid on the horizontal.
Something about the grain running
like water out into the street otherwise,
taking all the household luck with it.
Across from us at #5: two magnolia trees
we were sometimes allowed to climb.
Creamy flowers opening to a handful
of droopy matchsticks at the center.
Their opulent breath.

Metallic taste of water
from a drum whose mouth was always
open to the rain. Did I say rain?
June to November, nights
of flooded lagoons, canned
sardine rations, boiled rice.
On our street: the engineer
married to a white woman who wore
only blouses and long skirts.
She pressed coins into our palms
when we went caroling— bottlecaps
strung on a piece of wire, jangled
accompaniment to our tinny voices.

The retired judge walking up
the road in a suit of alabaster
sharkskin. Tremors in the hands
of the man next door: butterflies
trapped in the blinds. We used
to say: were we sediment
at the bottom of the cup
that was our valley? After
the great earthquake, looking
at rescue helicopters’ dragonfly
wings hovering above city ruins,
some of us left; some stayed.

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