•PLACES CALLED HOME•
Daddy knew the planet from the sky,
had flown the Hump over the Himalayas
into Burma, the most dangerous mission
of the war; brought home photos of
cargo planes, mud-filled camps, himself
astride giant tortoises and elephants.
Later he bought Cathy and me a globe
of slick blue seas and continents
that spread out like cream; eyes
gleaming, showed us the equator,
his beloved India, Red China, and
the banana-yellow state of Tennessee.
Mother filled a trunk with outfits
she’d made–serapes, Dutch caps, cowgirl
vests, and faux grass skirts. Cathy
and I spun the globe, landed a finger
where it stopped. Gleeful, we clogged
in wooden shoes and clicked our castanets.
Give a child a globe and you give her
the world. Thin gores of metal narrow
to a point at the poles, but take a globe
in your arms and a planet teems with life.
Buffalos plow the rice paddies. Oceans
swirl, sampans yaw, sea serpents writhe.
Thailand, Fiji, Ecuador, Mexico, places
I later called home. Gravity plants me here,
or there, where the land curves away
from me and planets stream by
in their orbits, each as terrestrial
as the dirt underfoot, inevitable as dust.
•GATES OF PARADISE•
If he had strangled me with the brown
leather belt held inches from my throat
as he backed me against the warehouse door
where no one could hear my screams;
if I had quivered or blinked back fear
instead of smiling and chatting about his
wallets, how my sister would love the red one;
if he hadn’t slowly dropped the belt, slipped it
back onto the table and taken my handful
of lira before opening the door to let me out.
I would have disappeared at twenty-five,
perhaps thrown from the Ponte Vecchio
into the Arno. Not one person knew
where I was or even what city.
After, I climbed back up the outer stairs
and walked to the Piazza del Duomo
where I stared at The Sacrifice of Isaac
on Ghiberti’s doors, The Gates of
Paradise, shaking for two hours.
In Florence, center of art and culture,
Venus de Milo and Michelangelo’s
David looking on, my murder
was averted like that of Isaac’s.
I could tell no one, more terrified
of telling than of the act itself, silence
graved on my cells by my father,
who had said he would kill me
if I spoke of his nightly visitations.
I moved through the world
seeking safety in shallow relief–
like Ghiberti, chasing perspective
–until the granite fell away, first
in brittle flakes, later as molten stone.
Image header by http://look4child.ngo/gallery/