Before my son was born, I had been inside my home often and, one spring day, sat myself on the astroturf behind a playground close to my home. I laid back, allowing the plastic grass to prick my arms and wrists. A few feet away, three girls sang a string of songs about heartbreak, all the while the lyrics broke and remade themselves on the edge of each spring leaf. I listened and I didn’t listen at once which felt like my fullest attention. The girls were so casual in their beauty, legs entangled in one another, fingers braiding each other’s teen hair. They seemed like one animal of burnished light and I tried not to stare. It was the kind of beauty that held its own attention, needed no validation, long eyelashes and pale arms gestured toward wholly bright selves. I closed my eyes hearing their laughter. I heard, too, from afar someone approaching. I heard a small thud and a boy’s voice. They talked, they joked, and then a silence that made me open my eyes. After a longer pause, they asked him to please leave. I now saw the boy was black and I registered an expression that was slow rain coming down hard as he grabbed his backpack swinging it so fiercely, it almost hit one of the girls. As he walked away, they laughed past him. Their laughter was the long shadow that followed him for years, their laughter forced him to round the corner, almost gone from view. Before he disappeared, he yelled, “Bitch,” but the memory of him left not a trace. The girls continued to sing except now there were thorns falling on the imagined grass, some of which landed close to me. When I sat up, I felt a strong kick inside me. My boy would be here soon. Six more days into the future I would meet him. I touched the area that moved. I waited.
Copyright © 2018 by Tina Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 30, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.