Painting of Some Childhood

Alisa Gulyansky

I am looking at a picture of you and me:

You are eating a popsicle,

and I am holding two fingers in the shape of

bunny ears above your head.

The camera cannot find my eyes from behind

the glare of the sun, but I think I see them say

something like I love you.

You had made me cry that day

killing a lizard on your bike -

but then your mom brought popsicles and

soon I had forgotten.

It feels far away to remember you the same as me,

to think of what our lives were like

before they diverged to two

Roads all seem to converge at dead ends when

I am riding my bike close to home;

I wonder what it’d be like to be one of those kids

whose only dead ends are cul de sacs,

the ones with the palm trees and the golf carts,

the ones whose mommies drive by sometimes

in the electric blue station wagon

as we play basketball in the parking lot.

I wonder if I should ask her if maybe she’d know

what it’s like to have free

Will you shut the door please,

as steam pours in from the kitchen -

I cannot breathe.

Shut it all the way

and don’t look back;

you mustn’t let the ink bleed through the crack.

Here, soak it up with this paper -

yes, the one whose words you say will seal my fate -

it’s all I could find.

Today I wonder

what it’d be like to live far from here,

in the city,

with the colorful neon signs and the tall buildings

and a real kitchen, instead of the cracked sidewalks and the flickering

Lights screwed with weak fluorescent bulbs glare upon the waiting room from above -

we don’t notice. We’ve forgotten where we are.

You say that nobody has died, yet you insist that we wait here longer.

You said it’d be fun,

but I am just tired.

I should have listened to Mommy when she told me

not to hang with your crowd - with the kids

who pretend that pretzel sticks are cigarettes

and ride around town in a shopping cart

because they’ve lost their metro

Pass the peas, please -

careful that they don’t fall upon the table

and smear the flowers printed on the tablecloth.

They are beautiful and expensive, Mommy says,

but I do not care. The flowers are not real.

They smell like soup and not like roses.

I wonder if they are ever sad

that their lives are all

Lies gush from your lips -

you aren’t fooling anyone.

I know you killed the lizard,

his body is hanging from your fingertips

and your bike tire is smeared with his guts.

I told you not to close your eyes as you rode,

but you said that it would be more fun if

you didn’t know where you were going.

When it is my turn, I do not listen.

I cannot trust the bike like you do -

Mommy would yell at me if I crashed it. Only

sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to close my eyes

and not worry about the lizards lying on the sidewalk