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REFUGEE
 

One of the first things I remember 
was being locked out of my house, 
unable to raise the dead, it seemed,

in just my diaper and mismatched shoes, 
not a person in the late night streets 
to see a three-and-a-half-year-old

make a journey in torrential rain, 
the gutters filled and running like creeks 
up to my knees stepping off a curb,

I walked in the middle of the street 
between cars and trucks and dark houses, 
the thunder overhead exploding

like bombs or colliding box cars 
making me start and start again, 
the sky lighting up like a brush fire

then the lights of a city gone out 
and in a second the houses 
would rattle from the crack and boom,

the downpour deluging my head, 
filling my shoes and streaking my cheeks, 
merging with tears from my blurred eyes,

block after block down the brick street 
to a familiar porch and light 
and someone I trusted would be safe.

I remember a few years later 
our family huddled around 
the Philco, and by the stunned silence

I knew this pearl was something sad. 
But, of course, I really didn't know 
what was going on. Then my father

and uncle had to go off to war, 
and we gave away some of our pans 
and ate Karo syrup not sugar,

and Sunday drives were rationed in stamps 
as I held my father's signal cards. 
Even more confused, I stood that night

bawling on the porch until a large 
hand guided me in and rubbed my hair 
with a towel and wrapped my shivering

body in terry and, cowled, I curled 
knees up on the couch right next to him, 
my head, hard, against his breathing chest,

and told over and over bits 
and pieces of what had happened 
on my walk toward warmth and words exchanged.
 
 

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