• Susanna Lang

Shelter

Updated: Jul 31, 2019


A child, could be six years old, 

clings to the maple, halfway up

or halfway down—


* * * * * 


a burl in the shape of a child, her knees

drawn up to her belly. And it’s raining again.


* * * * * 


I was six or seven. My mother

had taken me to have my hair cut short, with bangs,

so she wouldn’t have to pull the knots out every morning

before sending me off to school.

In the afternoon I got lost in the vast empty expanse of the sidewalk that went everywhere

but home. Wouldn’t

get in the policeman’s car—he was a stranger.


* * * * * 


A girl sits among blankets and bags on the pavement near the San Ysidro checkpoint.

Bedtime,

she should sleep. No one

combed out her hair tonight, put the white ribbon away 

for tomorrow. No bath, no pajamas with dancing animals or rockets.

She is still in her jacket, face illuminated under the streetlights. The photographer


* * * * * 


was born in Chile, lives

in Mexico, thinks of his own daughter

as he adjusts the lens on the camera.


* * * * * 


Years later I went back to the town where I got lost and still

couldn’t find the house, though I knew

where ibeen, what it should have looked like.

Maybe it stood where the strip mall is now, or maybe I’d mistaken

the name of the street. There was a creek behind the house.

I couldn’t find my house or the creek, but only my own forgetting

stood in the way.


* * * * * 


It’s raining again. A cormorant dives beneath the mud-thick water,

stays underwater while I cross the bridge. Later I see it

flying overhead as I cross back over. The maple is showing

its first flecks of color, goldenrod

glows along the path. My wet shirt clings to me, but I will be home

in twenty minutes. Dry, in a dry shirt. I can make myself a cup of tea.



Winner of the Mary Blinn Poetry Prize judged by Stuart Dybek, published in

Summer 2019 issue (#38) of After Hours.


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