Fifth Floor Walk-U, 6th St., Avenue D
Stupid and twenty-six, head full of words,
I napped to escape -- earning a living,
raising a child, keeping the man with an Afro halo,
light brown skin, dancer's body and a painter's mind.
His sights were on San Francisco for a clean start or another woman,
but before he left me and our daughter,
there were worms, diapers and thick summer heat.
All day, kids screamed in the rubble below.
After dark, shadows of men scurried past the window, up the fire escape.
Our mattress lay on the floor I'd painted Chinese red.
Over my desk I taped a torn magazine reproduction --
the Magritte painting of a woman on horseback
shimmering in and behind tree trunks.
The crib was in the far room, past the room with no furniture,
past the narrow bathroom,
and the kitchen with no table or chairs.
One morning I found tiny worms
writhing at the bottom of the make-shift diaper pail.
Trembling, I rushed them and the baby uptown to the clinic,
"What does this mean?"
The sparkling doctor, middle class like me,
had never seen anything like it,
but worms meant medicine.
He prescribed three bottles of purple poison.
There was no persuading the father to drink it, but the baby
and I swallowed ours.
Magritte's rider's back was straight, her tight boots glistened.
(published in "The Real Story", a chapbook,