By Bianca Jean-Phillipe, Senior
After a couple of years, I’m aware
my childhood was bolted in poverty
but jungle gyms and swing sets, of any
kind--even mine, which amongst many quirks
had zany chipped-paint charm and metal curves
that twinkled and glistened even in rain,
acidic and harsh—are still a gift most
kids are allowed to receive and upkeep.
Financial struggle did not exclude me;
mine was still a jungle gym and swing set,
a figure of inherent cheeriness.
Still a pomegranate of memories
I can bite into every once in a
while and savor forever candied scenes.
I bite a ruby-like seed of sweetness:
I remember on early mornings, I
would stretch and throttle my thin bones tumbling
from the bed to the floor. I’d scrape my knees
against the frugal floorboards. I’d bolt up
and race my older brother to the bathroom
through the tiny unfinished kitchen where
we had to “watch our steps” and “silencio.”
We crashed into cabinets, jostled each
other, jumped over furniture, and what
heralded each action was a battle cry,
“Hyaa!” We thundered mindless laughter. We
woke our father; we earned his lecturing.
In the mirror, my eyes trailed to my brother’s
and his mine--like enemy snipers’ scopes
scrolling then eclipsing. Toothbrush thistles
grinded into mouths, cut teeth, and bloodied
gums. The good intentioned competition
started by our mother was a bloodsport.
When we lacked money, my mother would take
us to the estudio. I loved it;
the clinic was an overnight field-trip.
I’d swallow my pills with a gulp. Adults--
not all of them could do it, but I could.
After the doctor showed us our room, I
would lie in the top bunk bed, and strangle
my neck on rails to glimpse my mother and
brother, graham cracker crumbs still falling from
my fist, and jelly residue making
my palms sticky and wet. Milk long gone, but
the taste still thin and yummy on my tongue.
When we lost the house, my family drifted
from motel to motel near enough to
the beaches that my father would spirit
us there at nighttime. From the lifeguard post
up on wooden steps flanked by my siblings,
I’d watch with wide eyes as the tides pushed
up an enormous electrical pole
to shore. Infuriating me then, my
father didn’t let me approach; he and
my younger self didn’t share a common
definition of obvious bounty.
When money allowed, my father toured some
houses--one of which had an open yard
leading into a forest. I agreed
to the scenery’s dare when Father looked
inside the property with the realtor.
I found myself surrounded by big blue
birds, a flock of peacocks, and did what kids
are wont to do. I chased, I harassed, I
screamed when they started chasing me, biting
and pecking. I learned hierarchy--big birds
then me. Not much of a savant for life
lessons learned, sometime later a goose would
reteach me. I was young. I was silly.
During Hurricane Katrina we took
shelter in a condemned grade apartement.
Though dilapidated and flawed inside,
it had an exterior worthy of
earning a nod from the stronghold, Fort Knox.
When the storm awoke, I scratched my bare soles
sticking them in uniform hexagon
holes patterning the stoic cement wall.
This stern sentry was safekeeping us,
but I wanted more--I wanted to scream,
and don a jagged grin, and experience
elements as nakedly as the world
did. I yawped at the sky, and gales swooped down.
They nipped at my loose clothes and tugged on my
soaked ringlets like a playful and quick and
sneaky imaginary friend. Rainwater,
too, streaked across my face and shined my cheeks.
Laughter decorated my ears and mouth
when I saw my siblings drag a “STOP” sign
suicidally, covertly, into their
room behind my father’s back. I laughed so
uproariously, louder than the storm,
upon seeing my father’s face when he
backpedaled out the room--discovered it.
I bit a ruby-like seed of sweetness.
So my teeth release the heartwarming and
astonishingly sweet pomegranate
curnel of childhood memories. The thin
translucent rose hued skin heals and repairs
itself so any other day I can
take a bite of it again.