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.