I am in the tree, my foot stuck
between branches. So I pick
at the skin of a limb. I see
the tops of everyone’s dark,
brown hair, shiny with the last
bit of the day. No one can see
me until I drop flakes of bark
in their hair. Liz jumps up to shake
the branches. Jessica, her little sister,
starts to cry. Their tia tells me, in Spanish,
to get down, to stop being un chango.
But my foot is stuck and I will stay there
even after they’ve all yelled for me
to get down, even after Mom yells for me.
One day, no one will tell you to get down
or call you home for dinner. You’ll just
do it, knowing you can be up there
in the sycamore, anytime you want.
This is how you know it’s over:
when you hear the word childhood
and can imagine it happening all at once.
That’s how you know it isn’t there anymore.
That’s how you know you’ve been staring
at old photographs instead of cleaning
your apartment like you told yourself
you would be doing today. Today,
you’re twenty-eight and reluctant to drive
across the country, back home to that place
where your mother has traded in
the big dinner table for something more
simple for her and your father to have
a quiet meal; back to this place where Liz
hasn’t been your neighbor in decades
and now raises two kids San Bernardino;
back to where Jessica works or doesn’t
and has a baby who cries for her. But
their tia is still there, as always,
with them, watching nearby, still
speaking in Spanish, now telling new kids
to get down from the tree; they’re only going
to hurt themselves up there.