When I was five, alive
in a little body, when I was six
picking up sticks, when I was seven, seventeen
maybe, eighteen, no seventeen, I was a version of me.
When I sat at the kitchen table, tabling
conversations too hard for my parents to accept,
tables like arithmetic were hard
for the me I wanted to be. No bright star shone
over the place I called home as I left,
no one waved good-bye, come again soon,
you’ll always have your room here. No one
but me on that bus, fishbowl in my lap
watching the mama fish eat her babies one by one.
Where did I go then
instead of off into normal?
When I was seventeen, seven, five,
alive meant towing the line,
sitting straight, being seen not heard,
kleenex bobby-pinned to my head
like a hat for church,
rain pounding the windows,
caterpillars raining on the tent at Sebago Lake.
When I was 35, I’d reached my five year old’s goal:
to be 35. What was left? A world of other people
thinking they knew me, thinking they were right
about me, and me thinking the five year old me was still
sitting under a tree on a smooth white sheet
playing teacher, making the dolls write in verse.