28/30: I REMEMBER
by Zachary Caballero
I never ran faster
than when running home from the bus stop,
my unstoppable brown legs
reaching for the ground like rain dropping,
the cascade of my my bent knees and flat feet
led me down the street and like the mouth of a river—
you can trace my tongue and find every beginning.
In elementary school, when we lived close enough to
take the bus from school to home, I remember very well
waiting in line, my tiny body melting in the heat like
the ice cream cone I would hopefully eat if I caught
the ice cream truck in my neighborhood with just
enough change in my pocket. The rarity of money never
sparing me from what I want.
I remember standing there, unafraid of the ride home,
because I always had a book to read.
Yes, I was the kid who read books on the bus
following the aftermath of another school day
where rule after rule, my bus mates and I were told what to do,
and now, it was my choice.
In the in-between, from now and then,
from home and here, I would unzip my backpack
like a present I am gifting myself,
and would search for the earmarked page
I bent merely hours earlier so I wouldn’t forget where I’ve been.
On the bus, nothing is louder than the ruckus of adolescence
pouring out from children, their smoldering throats,
loud as a forest fire carrying smoke and me quiet as ash.
I mean, we’re talking mostly madness, and all of it,
the chaos, the voices, the bus driver’s directions misdirected
like a broken compass. I knew where I was going.
There, back row, window seat, sunlight so I can see.
I sat, hands fit perfectly beneath the body of work I have just opened.
In my head, it was so quiet, I would step into myself
like an empty room, door unlocked with plenty of space
to hear myself think. How lovely it felt,
to turn on one voice in my head then turn off the rest?
I think then, I could have never imagined the quiet
without the chaos of sound crashing into me, my small body
with my bowl cut hair, as I sat next to the window,
where the best sunlight could be seen, where the darkness
would find me reading a book aloud, my proud mouth
alight with sound, round as the sun and the moon, round
as the whole world, and I didn’t know if anyone ever heard
me unfold a story on my lips, the sentences I kept repeating
until I knew what each word meant. I know the echoes
we create do not always say our name. But,
language meant so much to me, that when I read my books
on the bus, I did not worry about what was next,
could think less of the empty house I was running to
once off the bus, where I would eventually arrive by myself,
searching through the stacked shelves of my head,
shifting words in and out of my then growing mouth.
Yes, I am still a river running on like sentences too long to finish.
Yes, all my brothers are still elsewhere and out there
Yes, I am all alone with voices I cannot help but call my own.
No, I refuse to to give in to helplessness.
Yes, I wish this was a sustainable system of living.
Nowadays, the chaos is less cryptic.
But the story still isn’t finished.