morning, an index

I dream of trains rushing past. Yellow line painted on the ground and I stand behind it while one machine hurtles after the next so close I feel cool wind.

Here is my youth: riding the train to see you, bounding down the concrete steps from the platform to the street.

Bright sun. Wet heat. No relief.

What is a childhood? My father rolls rosary beads from bits of paper, counts them out across the kitchen table as he sits in the dark.

Prayers for five decades. Repentance and devotion.

Mornings, light floods the long narrow kitchen. A cat hides between the stove and the sink. Yellow dishcloth hangs from the oven door.

Low hum of radio. My hair in braids.

What is a sentence?

And the shore. Always the shore.

Mornings, light floods the narrow kitchen. I hold a glass in my hand and then drop it. I am always breaking glass.

Here is my youth: crossing from the train platform to the stationery store where I finger vellum and wood pulp.

A mouthful of prayers, silently. The night of the fire.

Black smoke billowing from the roof. Obscuring the stars.

My father’s closet empty, door hanging open. My mother holding a cool towel to her head.

Mornings, light floods the narrow kitchen. A certain devotion.

We stood on the sidewalk in our nightgowns, gazing up.

When I bled, I was sick for days.

What is a childhood? At the shore, we swallowed salt.

My mother holds her skirt up as she wades through floodwaters. Mother in a yellow dress. Devotion.

On the train platform you are waiting. Bright sun behind you and radiant. Skin tastes of salt and the sea. Water marks on the sea wall rising.

I find the yellow line, stand behind it. Wait for shock of speed and cold. Count out prayers of repentance. Days of bleeding.

Mornings, light floods the narrow room. Broken glass on the wooden floor. Cat darts out from between oven and sink.

My hair in braids. I hold up my skirt. Gazing up at the smoke-filled sky.