We were resourceful in the 90s; We had to be
in the summertime, when we were letting
the cool air out,
the critters in
so neighborhood mothers seemed to scream
in unison “Don’t go in and out of this house! Either
go outside or stay inside.”
I was sentenced outside after ingesting
too many music videos, trash talk shows
–and other reasons mamma could inject
the word “garbage” into her conversations with me.
It was the same summer I was banned from sitting
in her room as she watched soap operas
because a blond actress considered abortion.
I was learning too much for a nine year old.
Life was better outside anyway, even as the sun
baked our coffee skin three shades darker; my age
group four houses down agreed. Behind our parents’
watch, we could balance on bikes with no hands
until we skinned our knees, poke holes in ant hills
to watch their scrambling anger, and explore houses
gutted and abandoned by foreclosure.
Still nothing compared to when we needed water
after chasing my friend’s many brothers through
backyards, exhausting our sweat glands, lungs,
neighbors screaming empty threats over trespassing.
Panting with hands on our knees, I barely had power
to follow them to their backyard, dodging their doberman
and two (illegal) chickens who were too scarred
by our rough definitions of play to approach us.
This was the first time I sipped from their garden
hose, holding the green tube at an angle then lowering
my head to the stream, just the way I watched them.
Sometimes little drops would leap and mix
with the sweat that beaded on my forehead.
Almost immediately, my insides caught a breeze.
It was well over 95 degrees; we were just starting
to care, but endured the fever until submitting to
the taste of finding salvation, guzzling silver
reflections until we cramped, later picking
fights and teammates until the streetlights.
And the next day, and after,
the routine began again until school ended recess.
Today, after swallowing yard work
sweat, I tried to find solace
in garden hose water again. Spoiled
by bottled water, I couldn’t find that old oasis.
“This tastes like a liquid rusty nail.”
I ain’t lying; This could’ve been the truth
many summers ago, too.