we live in body storage
stacked bedrooms and balconies
under grey summer skies.
tufts of wild clouds hang
an old man’s silvery eyebrow
over the jaundiced eye of dimmed sunlight
threaded with black and tangled storms.
amber-lit, square windows
filled with soft, rounded people
in a North Chicago apartment building.
multi-lingual televisions yell behind doors
soap operas, daytime dramas,
real people, sometimes.
half-empty refrigerators of breast pump milk
and WIC government cheese
the jagged teeth of canned vegetables
and the compartmentalized Swanson dinners
smothered in plastic, like the sofa
protecting the fabric when we should be
protecting ourselves from the Salisbury Steak.
the food smells of seven countries
ask for identification
as we walk four flights
of threadbare stairs.
butter and onions.
meat and potatoes.
babies send warning of their own futures
a host of unknown sirens, wailing.
the staccato sobs that trail away,
the frustrated hush and coo
and pleading that follows.
there is the powder white
and liquid blue
doing their laundry at once
not flower drenched meadows
snuggle-puff teddy bears
or curly-haired, smiling and
dimpled children under velour.
the warm, dank breath of fabric softener
always smelled of poverty to me.
diapers, school uniforms, work clothes
the fabric stuck closest to minor miseries
endlessly tumbling, shrinking, fading
the unemployed huddle to keep warm
by winter dryer vents outside
grey lint, ghost rabbits cling
to their overcoats.
It is unsafe to play at the park or go outside
into the neighborhood and explore:
“There’s razors in the sandbox”
“I heard a kid got beat up on the swings”
“The drug dealers will kill you
on the merry-go-round”
we use the banister in the hallway stairs as slides.
we use the elevators to visit other dimensions and times
holding up mothers with groceries and library books.
hungry for nature, the owl-faced woman on the 3rd floor
with braided white ropes of hip-length hair
offers to teach us about the outdoors.
she cracks the spines on her science books
and National Geographic magazines
and i see my first field guide thick
with imaginary creatures i have never seen.
my sister and i jump on the bed to
“I Love A Rainy Night”
little Eddie Rabbit(s) with pent up energy.
we are scolded and spanked
but we are allowed to go outside
to get our “piss and vinegar” out.
when we are finally free to explore,
we eat the world up whole.
we ride the swingset on our bellies
and drag our fingers in the sand
we do the underdog and the spider.
we befriend a raccoon and collect
tadpoles in the “crick.”
we write on the sidewalks
with red berries from a bush,
we chase white cabbage moths
and grasshoppers who vomit
liquid rust, tobacco juice
on our fingertips in protest.
we hold dandelions under our chins
to reflect our love for butter, for each other,
for the golden boys we’ve yet to meet.
we blow the seeds away
little fragile umbrellas
collapsing in the Summer rain.