Locked in the hothouse—my steamy, salt-air Neighborhood crayoned with hibiscus, each blossom’s Red stalk aiming its pollen-beaded headdress Toward the sun—all of us knew which of our fellow Alpha classmates had become pregnant, though no Impromptu blooms would blaze to meet the light. On my last Miami visit, my childhood House was lost in a tangle of tropical greenery. Stepping out of his pickup, the owner, whose Fix-flip M.O. had not worked, admitted foreclosure. Later, on Zillow, I wandered the shell of my vacant House—the kitchen sleek with its brushed-steel fridge And black-flecked granite, the pool pale sky-blue, The patio stone recast a ruddy sunburn pink. Photo of my youth: on fire from napalm, a naked Vietnamese girl sprinting, shrieking, as she fled Her countrymen’s blast. At home, two-inch palmetto bugs Ate crayons stashed in a shoe box bumping colored paper And pencils in a closet, burst into a psychedelic mess Whenever I thwacked one with a shoe. One time a friend Barreled out of her house in only a T-shirt. Bad mescaline. For the girls in my circle, earning A after A was a given, Our engines vrooming even in the hours allotted To lazing at Haulover Beach, a half-dozen concert venues, Discount Records, Greynolds Park. We had to get out. One girl, ahead of us, Marxist romantic, alighted in Berkeley, tutored prisoners with her boyfriend, founding Soldier with the Symbionese Liberation Army. Sign-off On its missives: “Death to the fascist insect that preys Upon the life of the people.” She escaped, fading Into the rain in England, soon after the first murder— Oakland school superintendent—but before bank heists And that machine-gun, stuff-into-the-trunk abduction Of blindfolded heiress Patty Hearst, nineteen. Behind us, Another girl, only three during the year of the napalm Girl and whose yard slid down to the glinty lake, Rose to the top of a corporation, asks parents to praise Daughters for leadership skills, urges women to gather In circles and build themselves a bigger box—lean in. As kids—propped up on our elbows beside the murky Edge of the lake, with our toes combing the chopped Grass and the humidity pressed against us—we thought We could pilot our afternoons as if they were float toys. Steeped in the greenness, oversoaked by the gleamy Heat of the sun, we monitored limb buds erupting On tadpoles, clouds of them wriggling among the weeds.
As I was guided by the director through the thick space Of these rooms, worn sparrow brown, and strode With the August sun on my shoulders across this particular Acre of grass, nobody had told me this was the place Where you had summered as a boy. I have weathered My fourth decade, older now than you were When you died. I can barely remember you, yet I can see You not as my father but as my son. You are age nine. The downpour divides into two massive stage curtains Parting. You bolt from the bunk, loudly racing With your chums down the slippery hill to the dock, Your cape of a towel flapping as if ready to lift you airborne. You are the smallest. Still, you always run in the front. You do not know how beautiful you are, of course, squinting Against the sun, the flame that escapes behind the gray Vapor for hours, sometimes for days. You cannot see That from the beginning it has been eyeing you from afar, That it has focused its golden spotlight just for you.