Poem 5: 718 3rd St. North

Shame lived there.
Uneven, crumbly walls painted industrial white,
rusted metal shrieking when we flushed.
I used to glide on second-hand roller skates
down uncarpeted floor
that dipped and rolled
through dingy rooms.

And the cardboard refrigerator box
I called my castle.
I propped it up against cold walls, cut out a door,
and took countless meals and naps,
a short-haired Rapunzel
languishing in the dark.

Wrong side of town,
wrong side of the tracks,
wrong side of the
socioeconomic hierarchy.
I never invited anyone home.

I walked two miles to school every morning
and into the warmth of proud teacherly smiles.
My bright purple, fake fur coat
lay in mattes against my too-short polyester pants.
At recess, children trilled and grinned
through metal teeth.
I stayed inside as often as teachers let me.

Home, where the absence of my sisters rang,
where hostile faces leered through dirty windows,
where meals came in boxes from the church,
where the occasional gift from Grandma
turned us into tragic princesses.

My sisters came back.
My toenail fell off.
I bounced like a monkey
on the pogo stick my cousin lent me
and ate the Generic Sugar Snaps
that loomed in echoing cupboards.

Shame lived there,
and for two long years,
so did I.

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