Poem #1

by Maya Martin


when I was born,
my mother cried for two reasons:
one leg fell shorter than the other
and my eyes were too close
to my father’s.
So when I spoke to her she
sometimes saw me only with the top left corner
of her eye
She hoped I wouldn’t notice 

Still, in the naivete of all young boys,
I thought that the earth and the sky and the ocean
and everything which my eyes recognized,
were mine.
I thought if I told a broom and a spoon to dance
and sing, they would listen.
That was just the way of things to me, until I realized that
I belonged to the universe, and not
the other way around.
It could poke me and prod me and lock me up, shoot me dead
It didn’t matter
I didn’t matter
to anyone. 

We lived at the corner of Harbinger Ave.
and McAlow Street, where the garbage trucks pass by every Sunday
dropping off, not picking up, unless we had something other than the
shoes on our feet
to offer
We never did.
Where you’re always nearer to a drug dealer than a teacher, and where
the mystical ghost men of the street corners packed up their things each night
and carried them off under their arms in search of air for breathing
But there was nothing for them. 

and we thought that if we tried to build a ladder
of dimes and brown shoelaces
maybe up there, above the moon, we would find a star that was ours and we could sell its dust
for
so our mothers wouldn’t have to say they wished we hadn’t been born

they wished we hadn’t been born
into poverty
but the ladders broke
because it seems we always lose
we were nothing but children, dreamers,
finders keepers, well
we were lost
in the darkness of one brown eye
no one could ever call beautiful
we were garbage on the roadside
carbon dioxide
left over from a father’s exhale or goodbye 

Then on Tuesday, I packed a bag and I
took off
with the men who go out each night,

never to return to the rooms five feet length and width haunted by
mothers who never existed,
off to find their souls.
It was quieter at twilight when the sun was a bleeding orange and purple heart
behind the streetlights, when
the smog snuck out and wrapped its intangible arms
around the apartment buildings.One man
shot
by the police
at midnight
He didn’t feel like
lifting his hands for them
this time.

Author Bio: Maya Martin is a junior at W.D. Mohammed High School and plans to study Journalism in college. She loves to travel, listen to the cello, perform in front of the class, and watch presidential debates on T.V. She also plays the saxophone and participates in Mock Trial.