The neighborhood was surrounded
by looming trees and basketball hoops,
shrouded in a blanket of blinding sunshine
that burned the petals
off of the white magnolias
and the pink petunias
that all stood crooked in the rigid garden,
the soil entrenched with dead caterpillars
and corpses of black birds.
There were large holes
that were pocked in the slanted driveways.
Tarnished, ruby red sedans sat side by side,
their tires deflated and front fascias
caked with mud and grime.
Each house had a flat roof with peeling shingles,
and wide gutters that were strewn with brown leaves
which fluttered down to the front lawn
when the winds from the Northeast
pushed through to cover the neighborhood with
A little girl was chasing a little boy,
swinging at him with a whiffle ball bat,
hollering until her voice was hoarse,
the white sundress she was wearing, frayed
on the edges, her long hair bleached from the sun.
The boy had a deep shiner on his left eye
and snot flying out his nose while he giggled,
running around in circles and circles,
pulling up on his trousers which kept
slipping below his waist, the buttons
on his dress shirt dangling against the fabric.
A short woman with hunched shoulders
was leaning back in a rocking chair,
snapping open a cold beer,
tapping her blue slippers together,
gazing at the children, her chin in her hand,
wishing she could run freely without
the bones in her legs cracking and bending
from one end to the other.
The weather was muggy, slicking
the pools of water that had been collected
beneath the lonely streetlamp, its bulb opaque
on one side, and naked on the other.
I remember that we were sheltered in this environment,
imprisoned from the blaring sirens atop the police cruisers
and the nasty rodents, which crawled along
the winding streets looking for innocence in children.
And now we are living apart from our gated communities,
decaying away in our studio apartments and cozy bungalows,
watching Reality TV shows and college football games
on our 50 inch screens while we indulge in pistachio ice cream
and IPAs, thinking we are safe, thinking we
deserve our privilege, thinking that we need more.
More income, more flesh, more vehicles.
When all we need is a half-hour of conversation
with someone who cares about our disposition
dreams, and longings. And does not require
our status, our background, or our possessions.
We were sheltered from this world of hate and love,
and had to find ourselves through material objects,
and careless people.
But we can change and become better,
better than who we are now, beyond
what is said to be vibrant and beautiful.
Because we are human,
and are able to understand
what is right
and what is wrong.
Before we were sheltered
and now we are exposed
to the pain, to the suffering,
to the beauty, to the happiness.
The shelter has shattered
into many halves,
that do not have to be carried
on our backs
until we are old,
until we are gray,
until we collapse.