where kids stuck ABC gum, we held our knees, waiting for
the bomb. Ten years passed, and I grew to be
afraid of tanks coming down Lockwood Ridge Road,
and men with machine guns knocking on my door.
The odds suggested to me it was time for us to take
our share of machetes in our bedrooms.
Why didn’t they take my son away from me?
I was not a good parent. Proof? He was
a bouncing ball in his desk at school. Also, he failed
to understand the purpose of geometry. I was certain men
would come for me when I was in the shower, naked,
alone, my baby boy in the next room, asleep,
or they’d roll up the driveway at dinner between the pot roast
and mashed potatoes. Twenty more years, and now
I can’t believe I still have all my fingers. What’s stopping
my neighbor from slicing my head off? Planes fly over,
and I wonder if fire will drop onto my rooftop,
if the boom of the shuttle re-entering our atmosphere
is really the big one, finally, coming to America.
I am after all, only sixty miles or so from Disney World,
our symbol of fun. Still, no tanks appear in my front yard,
but I’ve seen the TV reports from war-ripped countries:
bullets flying between mothers and their children as they
walk to the market. I’ve grown afraid of the construction
workers across the street. Those hammers. Those nails
pinning shingles down to the roof. The men could
march over to my house and insist I turn over
to them my dried flowers, my postcards on the wall,
my notebooks, my pencils, my rocks collected from trips.
But what I’m really afraid of is that there won’t be enough
rain for my wild flowers, lightning will strike my new TV,
I’ll never learn to keep a clean house, and somewhere,
a place I’ve never been, a mother covers her child’s body--
like a blooming crimson bougainvillea vine--on a street,
beneath buildings taller than the trees outside my window.