Every two weeks we search the horizon for a distant cloud of dust. It never fails us. Into the dry dirt lot, a bookmobile rolls toward the long line of small bodies baking in South Dakota heat. It seems forever until the door of the trailer opens. The bookmobile lady always stands for a moment observing us in her wire-rimmed glasses, black hair swept high on her head, the crisp white blouse.
One by one she hands us a towel to wipe sweaty hands before allowing us to cross her threshold.
Inside, a fan blows cool air, and we feel it to be a holy place, so different from our homes. I thumb through pages of Scarlet O’Hara, but Nancy Drew is more exciting in her blue roadster. So too The Black Stallion and Flame, their flanks flying, manes streaming free.
But Francie changes my life.
She does not allow poverty to crush her dreams, or to squelch her desire to learn. She sees possibility where others might see defeat. Her story brings hope to an eleven-year-old girl who now sees the Francie in herself.
Like the tree of heaven that sprouted between cracked cement outside her Brooklyn tenement, she encourages me to push ever upward, to rise from my own dirt lot and to grow, to grow green, and to be alive . . .
spun from the sky
into my hands . . .
petrichor the last snap of her jump rope
The Day Everything Changes
Bundled in blankets on a morning already hot, our mother lays you down in the bassinet, your red hair a surprise. Your tininess. She looks worried that I am even in the room, but father promised me a peek at my new brother before we leave for the hospital. I have scarlet fever and will spend the next two weeks away. I don’t know about the yellow sign yet, already on the door, that says Do not enter—scarlet fever. I am seven and do not understand the word quarantined means summer in an attic bedroom. Without visitors. Without seeing you.
I hear you cry.
When our mother slides my meal tray under the door, she usually talks to me for a while. She tells me your hair is still red, that you smile when our mother smiles. She tells me you sleep with your tiny hands curled into fists. When I ask why you cry so much, she explains that crying is the only way a baby says, I’m hungry. I need to be changed. Something hurts.
from the burn barrel
an ember smolders . . .
no one sees