A Child’s Life
(A Hejinian poem I wrote about childhood while at university.)
I was at the table. High, dangling legs, looking at biscuits. The sun colored the room yellow. Her smile was wrinkled and bent. That was happiness. We went onto the swing. Back and forth, back and forth. The sky turned dark blue, and the stars swam. We ran over the fields. The roof was falling in, and the sides were no longer red. We jumped the hay then over the fence. My cousin laughed when he fell. I carried a stick because coyotes and kicking cows. We swayed at the creek then jumped. It was brown and red because the stones weren’t blue, and the water was clear. We climbed the fallen tree. Dangling legs. The grass below danced. It felt like Christmas.
There were eyes always watching. We held our ears to the wall then ran outside. We always ducked or froze when a car whizzed by. Statues and mannequins made me think of sadness. We were always very still when we went to a funeral. I touched my great aunt’s cold, bloodless hand. We ran and ran, and I loved to swing. The sky was my friend. I loved when he was blue. My mother angrily shouted for me to get out of the tree. My father never bought us toys because we could die. I never got my bow and arrows or pocket knife. We traveled the world through pictures and the porch swing. We’d put our legs up, and my cousin pulled the lever. We would arrive in a different world where the roses had souls and dogs could speak but chose not to.
I always mixed the buttermilk with the flour too quickly, but she would give me her wrinkled smile. Clocks confused me, and I watched clouds form castles and animals from my bed of leaves. My sister loved to sing and put on blue makeup. We secretly climbed the mountain until we craved chocolate drizzled ice cream. We threw the cow rib across the road into the ditch. The limbs caught our hair as we ran up the steps. My biscuits always turned out too brown, but we colored them in honey. Molasses made my jaws hurt.
My father always came home late. I used to chase my cat then put her in a cage then let her go and feed her. The sun would turn pink. We could never swim because it rained enough to fill a swimming pool. I watched raindrops race and imagined tracing them, but my fingers were too greasy. Windows were a portal, and I saw myself riding a horse down the sidewalk with wind blowing through our hair. Then we arrived at school, and every smile hid a frown.
Photo by Senjuti Kundu