When I Was Eleven

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.