New Mexico childhood poem

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.


(ew – 1992)

About Erin W

A sensitive plant, bamboo strong.
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