don’t want to get into
it felt so damn bad
that we were poor
i wore ugly shoes
and pants
that fit too big
with holes
that brown duplex
on 12th and K
we lived in
government housing
for those
woefully without
it bothered me
when i drove by
saw every building
an empty lot
i stopped
took it all in
the air
hauntingly quiet
it’s all gone now
like mama
and my childhood
nothing’s forever
family gatherings
mama cooking up a storm
in that small kitchen
the black neighbors
the Harrises
the McDaniels
magnificently poor
like us
shared tables
best friends
a variety of music
Trio Los Panchos
Nat King Cole
James Brown,
out our windows
the sweet smell
of capirotada
and barbecue
wafting, curling
a framed picture
of JFK,
next to the Virgin Mary
a lit candle
in the middle
Thanksgiving, Christmas,
countless birthdays
that ugly house
filled to the brim
with warm memories
every loving inch
don’t want to get into
this empty lot
bothers me
why my chest aches
for every last
precious piece
i see mama
at the window
her foodstained apron
hair in bobbypins
her scarf
wrapped tight around her head
like aunt jemimah,
waving goodbye   

© Charles Mariano