I remember picking up a fistful of sand, smooth crystals, like hourglass sand and throwing it into the eyes of a boy. Johnny or Danny or Kevin—he was not important. I was five and I knew he would cry. I remember everything about it— the sandbox in the corner of the room at Cinderella Day Care; Ms. Lee, who ran over after the boy wailed for his mother, her stern look as the words No snack formed on her lips. My hands with their gritty, half-mooned fingernails I hid in the pockets of my blue and white dress. How she found them and uncurled small sandy fists. There must have been such rage in me, to give such pain to another person. This afternoon, I saw a man pull a gold chain off the neck of a woman as she crossed the street. She cried out with a sound that bleached me. I walked on, unable to help, knowing that fire in childhood clenched deep in my pockets all the way home.
A gray hoodie will not protect my son
from rain, from the New England cold.
I see the partial eclipse of his face
as his head sinks into the half-dark
and shades his eyes. Even in our
quiet suburb with its unlocked doors,
I fear for his safety—the darkest child
on our street in the empire of blocks.
Sometimes I don’t know who he is anymore
traveling the back roads between boy and man.
He strides a deep stride, pounds a basketball
into wet pavement. Will he take his shot
or is he waiting for the open-mouthed
orange rim to take a chance on him? I sing
his name to the night, ask for safe passage
from this borrowed body into the next
and wonder who could mistake him
for anything but good.