The streets were innocent then – cats and dogs made small noises,
cars idled in driveways nearby, bike tires crushed through gravel,
and bells announced each joust. The last gloaming of the sun
cast shadows on freeze tag and popsicle-stained fingertips.
We painted our cheeks the colors of crayons. We yelled
our songs into the night so they echoed off the houses.
In tall grass we chased ants ridden by the sturdiest princes
hunting the most ferocious wolves, and we checked under flowers
for queens crowned with leaves and shining beetles.
The dew of evening left our knees and elbows green when
we chased rabbits and mice wearing waistcoats through the weeds.
The dust from holes dug to China collected under our fingernails.
Flashlights were torches used to ward off witches who
offered sticky sweets and no bedtimes. The reaching branches of
backyard hedges were the arms of wizards seeking mischief – their robes
made of seaweed, their beards hung with barnacles.
They waited to snatch us from our games.
We built tree houses of cards where jesters juggled planets
and the ace of spades sung operas while the hearts spun pirouettes.
We followed treasure maps – X’s and dotted lines, our paces counted out.
We traveled waters to far lands on a ship surrounded by fallen constellations
glowing like fireflies. Not knowing what to call the stars,
we gave them the heroic names of knights and kings. Our sails
were made from unfolded paper airplanes hoisted
on a main mast made of a wise oak or maple.
We sought dragons and giant squid, faeries and monsters and battles.
Faucets made maelstroms conjured by mysterious creatures of the deep,
but we feared no storm because a tea spoon could bale out a boat
built by a band of adventurous pirates with legs covered in poison ivy
and holes in their shirts. We gave ourselves to what was more real.
In that blue moment just after the sun meets the horizon, I can feel
the short wisps of breath expelled into the cool air on nights when
we waited for the street lights to put us to bed,
for I am from the ocean in my childhood bathtub,
I am from that place, 23 paces North, in the cave marked by crossed bones.
I've been playing pretend since I knew what imagination was. I never intend to grow up.