Behind our house, although the front was kept
sprinkled and cut, a bramble jungle swept
down to the vague edge of the property.
A staircase teetered from the basement door
and disappeared in briars. It felt to me
like ugliness. And also weird allure.
Scratched from the tangle, when you reached the end
there was a fence. But only to suspend
the vines: a hole was ripped in the chain-link
and opened on a tennis court. Who knows
how long it lay abandoned. Arrowing slink
of a garter snake or squawking of some crows.
And there it stood. And I could disappear:
free from the whiplash of that house. That year
time had a ragged, wave-like undertone.
My father lived with us again, then didn't.
Life happened all together, then alone.
To stomp and shriek and sing and cower, hidden
there on the crumbling court, or even lie
on its cracked clay and watch the square of sky
braiding with clouds made everything, the gleams
of rage and happiness and feral love
and loneliness, dissolve to jabbering streams
my hideout floated at the center of.
And I brought others also. I can see
Jason and Lee and Karen crouch with me
coughing on ripped-off cigarettes. Our hair
almost translucent in the sun, our faces
brimming with sun, we are wholly elsewhere:
sliced from all time that this one time erases.
The home above, its breaking, shines both clear
and blotched in memory. A purple smear
of evening rooms and then, slow-mo, a shot
of screams and smashing glass. The crumbling court
stays, though, as if the details I forgot
moldered around its edges for support:
the chain-link and its canopy of green
burn to a yellow scribble, while this sheen
of skin remains there, held against the pull
of all outside. Soon wave-like glimmers leak
across us. Only fragments stand out full
in the sun ... lips moistened, opening to speak.