This poem I thought I had lost but just found captures some of the mystery I felt when I was 9. Ant lions are real insects that set up traps in desert sand for tiny ants. I hadn’t discovered Buddhism yet, because I confess I would make life very convenient for the ant lions.
New Mexican Playground
We tasted string-loop lollipops
from the bank teller counting heads
inside our green Ford wagon,
asking Mother about her day.
We cut clothing and shoe-box homes
for our Barbie alternatives: the Boopsie
doll and red velveteen dog, a garage
sale find with our allowed ten cents.
Our back-bends and somersaults and headstands
won prizes under Hyder Park elms. We harvested
dandelion leaves for dinner salads, marigold
seeds for planting. We asked trees and clouds
for answers–Will I be famous when I grow up?
Will we have Dad’s Cream of Mushroom soup again
for dinner? Will an ice age wipe out my life?
A small-scale miner in sand, I dredged
a horseshoe magnet for hours, competing for
the weight of its sluffed, black fuzz.
We attempted to fly the garbage bag kite
in a windstorm, we roller-skated on basketball courts,
cement over sand, plucked goat-head
burrs from our wheels.
We knew summer theater–
Ant lions slaying minute, black prey
in a desperate slide down the pit,
the drama of the chase–lizards dismembered
bleeding blue tails in our hands. And often,
a line of parents held us above the schoolyard
wall to listen to the twilight lightning
and witness the silent storms.