When I was eleven, my mouse, Melvin, turned out to be a rat.
Glossy tabloid pictures of Ricky Nelson speckled my bedroom wall
my face also had splotches of pimples.
I had a “Blood Brother” named Jack who was my best friend.
We had a fort in the condemned barracks down the street.
I was the second best tetherball player in my neighborhood, so
my middle finger throbbed purple from jamming the ball, but
I never beat Jack’s older brother, Frank.
I rode a motorboat across the harbor to catch the school bus every day.
My greatest fear was missing that bus after school.
I lived about a half a mile from the Japanese sneak attack
on the United States’ battleships 15 years before.
Like petrified sea monsters, the rusted hulks of those destroyed ships
rocked and groaned in the oily water outside my bedroom window.
Bushes with blood red hibiscus, yellow tongues wagging,
separated us from morbid history.
Lapping waves pleaded with the trade winds
brushing over shocked corpses buried
in metal sea caverns.
My mother did the hula on a pier
a few blocks away,
welcoming aircraft carriers choreographed
with war planes on their decks.
Strands of her golden hair teased by the balmy breeze,
swished with her grass skirt to the rhythm of soft drums.
My younger brother both monkey and pirate,
clawed palm trees to get coconuts to trade
with the sailors for cigarettes.
My father brought my mother leis of fragrant orchids
every Friday afternoon. After the parties,
the wilted, bruised blossoms
filled the refrigerator with thick sweetness.
I dressed my baby brother in my pink poodle skirt,
pushed him around in a stroller and told people
“her” name was Penelope.
I climbed the dank crevices of an ancient Banyan Tree
and swooped carelessly through the air on tendrils of twined roots.
The Russians sent Sputnik into space (enter Star Wars!).
I wrote reams of science fiction stories starring one-eyed aliens
with nose horns and ear wings.
I got caught stealing dimes from my brother’s pink rubber piggy bank
and was sent to bed for three days.
Now I write poetry, skip naps, take store bought flowers
to the graves of my mother and father,
do the hula by heart, and
have nightmares of missing my boat home.
The Banyan Tree still stands on its hill, thriving on history,
its roots draping limbs that carry the weight of generations
swinging through time.
One must walk around a carpet thick
with layers of blackened rubber leaves,
under the great heaving umbrella,
to see the ghosts and harbor
shadowed by the massive trunk.