The Center of the Block
Hudsons and Studebakers ruled the streets,
a crossing guard and teenagers the pavement
when I was eight. But that was an improvement
on indoors, a domain of grunts and threats.
One way out went up, skyward, on steep roofs
where we clattered on corrugated tin
or gripped crumbling shingles and stared at the sun,
until a call to scat down cuffed our laughs.
We had to shimmy down the drainpipes, hop
on the slick decks of sailboats on their trailers
and, skulking off, out of the range of callers,
reaching the center of the block, escape.
The boundaries dwindled to a row of wickets
or a wire fence twisted and bent and pulled
up from a channel clawed in earth. We crawled
underneath and squeezed through, dirt in our pockets.