I wanted a world I couldn’t have.
Tiny elfin homes of moss and bark
and twigs, with acorn shells for dishes.
Under great trees I played
making fairy princess dolls from the blossoms
of pomegranate and hibiscus bushes;
while down at the bottom of the hill
a beggar boy squatted with his can at the gate,
or a mother sat holding her sleeping baby in her arms,
the child’s matted hair the color of despair.
And in the stone streets small thickset ponies
with flies about their heads
pulled cartloads much too heavy;
they staggered and starved and died, whipped
by owners not cruel
but just as poor and desperate as the ponies.
In the walled garden above I ran about
with the other feather-haired children
beneath a canopy of flowering cherries
whose petals drifted
to form a carpet of palest pink dotting the green grass.
Then I walked home down an alley
of granite block steps
where urine and food scraps ran along the gutter
and tin-roofed shacks clinging
to the hillside were homes
and the granite steps were the children’s