Substitution

When I'd misbehaved as child or broken 
a lamp or plate, my mother would say 
Do you want me
to return you to where you came from?
which made me stand stock still, squeeze
my brows together, confused from trying
to visualize what that might mean.
I'd heard whispers, jokes,
the kind that took one look at my dusky
skin and compared it to the fairer  
ones in school: You
must have been picked from the garbage
bin. You must have floated out
of the murky river.  
Whereas the Mayor's child was tucked
into bed at 8, but her nanny said
I could play
with her dolls if I liked,
until it was time for my parents to leave
the party. I combed their straight
yellow hair with my fingers 
and took one of them for a walk
around the pool. I opened up
the face of a peach
hibiscus and turned it
into a boat. I pushed
the changeling out to sea
and waved goodbye,
goodbye, goodbye. 

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