Audio: Read by the author.
It was years after I read The Black Stallion
and culled my herbarium from the
jungle where my parents cut the edges
of wet leaves and plied the air for berry-ripe birds,
and yet, I had wanted something like a taxi
and a white dress, a cigarette and furtive laughter
with girls under a blanket. It would be fine
my mother said, as we boarded the plane
back from school, the taste of ginger from the holiday
still riding my back teeth. And then—when I was let go—
shot out past my prior sightlines in what must have been
a blaze, I could see nothing until we all went
to sea, the waves spindled in a way I knew, the wet
leaves cut here and there from when my mother
walked through the garden. Blood on my hair,
the world holding me to its flailing chest
and I was ready to leave, might have left with my mother
in hand, but the oars were up, one white shoe,
one white, white dress. The girls were popping
champagne corks beyond the auditorium
at the last school dance. The trees ricocheted back,
caught me, still strapped in my mint vinyl
Moses basket. The sky like water and the trees
rejoicing: I drew her out. The bats circled my chest
as if I were honey, as if I were theirs.
Frances Wood is a current MFA candidate in poetry at Columbia University. She lives in East Harlem with her family.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
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