“To be born”
is to be fatally passive—I débuted.
In Central Park. The back of a cab. Horse-drawn
of course: steed rearing, driver clutching his hat
and waxing pale. His coattails flecked with blood.
The vendor of salted nuts offering his tongs
as forceps. Father laboring to appear
composed as Mother groaned: “Not here, not here!”
She meant the country. Oh, it wasn’t that
godawful as a place to take a trip—
but as a claim upon my citizenship!
She’d almost rather see me cleft in two…
Yet, she let go. The driver swooned. The steed
stood still. The vendor held me high: the throngs
greeted my vocal warmups with a cheer.
I had arrived—a bit before my cue—
but Mother swore we’d never travel there again.
Soon I was flying back at breathless speed
in dreams—drawn homeward, homeward without halt…
At five I begged, “Can’t I go? I’m American!”
She laughed and turned away. “That’s not my fault.”