I was under the kitchen table, guessing who was at the sink by how they used water when I heard my mother say to my father, what about this job, that one, those people, did they call? And my father said, everyone says no. I see all the doors but none of them will open. My mother said, maybe we just haven’t found the right key, I’ll go look for it. They laughed for a long time. Their toes looked at each other. Maybe they forgot the bag of keys in the crooked-mouth dresser. I lined up the keys on a windowsill, metal on metal on my fingers until they smelled like missing teeth. I looked at the best one: large cursive F, a scarlet ribbon tied to it. It had two teeth, like my baby sister. I tried the little door behind the community center. Then the big-kids door at my school. The shed of a house with a backyard so large the family could never see me. I got grass and sand and an ignorant pebble in my shoe. Dust climbed up my pants so I could spit-spell my name on my leg when resting. I went back to our neighborhood. There was a black cloud over it while the nice neighborhood down the hill shone. A girl said our house was darkest and the first raindrops fell on it because we’re all going to hell. When I told my father he said it was “isolated” or “separated” storms. So it was true we were set apart for a punishment. The next day dozens of dead flying ants covered our patio. I took all the keys and tried all the doors in the abandoned mall. One unlocked. It was a room with white walls, floor, ceiling. White squares of wood flat or leaning in every corner. The door closed behind me and no key would work. Maybe the room would swallow me and I’d get invisible if I didn’t stop screaming but then a surprised guy, white, wearing white, opened the door. I wanted to try one more time but my keys disappeared and everyone said they were never real.
We ran barefoot on pavement
before a girl tripped on a rock,
got third and fourth lips,
a new hairline.
We jumped from swings, aiming
for grass beyond the gravel path.
We flipped over the frame to float,
weightless girls who didn’t matter.
There’s a scar in the shape of Africa
on my right knee, a faceless dime
on my wrist. I expect flight,
but brace to land on my back.
How I could’ve loved you with that body,
heart that instructs a girl to climb fences
taller than her house, or fight a bully
who already shaves her knees.
What chords a pulse plucks. It plays
in thumbs pressed together. Some night
I’d like to leap from the headboard,
double up, wonder at the blood in our grins.