Heart of pine

The first time, I am three. We are new
in the neighborhood, just moved into

a government house with soiled 
floorboards and mildew-spotted walls.

It's good wood, father says; heart
of pine. He can walk to work at the City

Hall, ten minutes away; whistling, no sweat. 
Mother ties a bandana over her nose

and mouth to clean. She can't do it
on her own. She cries every day until

father says she can hire a teenage boy
from down the street. His fingers

are square and brown and he crumples old
newspapers to dip in water for cleaning

the windows. When he says play
doctor and sticks his finger under

my waistband I worry the cotton
will show the stains. After,

I sit on the far end of the porch, 
burning; stacking stones, tearing twigs.

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