When I was 10, I lived in a new addition,
a neighborhood of houses on winding roads
plopped right between cornfields and woods,
Indiana farm country. I was never allowed
to ride my bicycle to the drugstore
where other kids bought sodas and sweets,
but then I have always scorned shopping.
With no adult guidance,
if I wanted, I could spend the entire day
smashing down little rooms in the corn,
following trails in the forest,
or the creek meandering
through my kingdom. My friends and I
would scoop out mud,
collect logs, and create deep pools
from our clumsily-constructed dams.
We would creek stomp, look for frogs,
collect rocks and travel to distant lands
as long as I responded promptly
to my mother’s echoing
dinnertime call. I learned quickly to go far, far
early in the day and slowly make my way
back home, so that I could appear
with an innocent look belied by mud-caked
jeans, dirt-encrusted fingers and toes.
When my own sons were young,
right after we settled near a big park
with an interesting creek, the police caught a man
who was frightening children.
And so ensuing explorations were curtailed
by an ever-present watchful adult.
They paid the consequences
for atrocities committed seven generations back
by their own ancestors who seized
the fenceless lands and did unspeakable
things to the children who lived there.
How do we confess to our descendants
the very foundation of this so-called freedom?
How do we admit to ourselves
that this headlong rush to disaster
— the one we call daily life —
is based on the unbearable grief
we’ve built our lives upon?
Can we ever open our hearts
to claim those dark deeds?
To confess: this beautiful home is built on bones
savaged by the brutality
I carry in my very DNA.
I cannot claim innocence,
not any longer,
for my grandchildren are doomed
if I stay silent.