To the Kids of Las Pozas

I miss you! Bursting
about exploding
like mangos on
my corrugated roof wasting
our time splashing
under the bridge
in the high river months,
fishing without poles
you were a dozen at least
tawny-toed, swarming at dusk
to all things
like cake
and bikes
that hint sweet, you lined the wall
with wide eyes that first night later you
patched my tire and
roared about the shade of pink
on the backs of my heels,
took turns petting
my arm hair.
You gushed in without knocking,
bent back the corners
of my Uno
deck, claimed entitlement to all my diplomatic offerings,
spat out my root beer barrels and
left my Crayolas in an
exasperating heap over
the red concrete. Such ruckus!

There was that week or so
we spent
discussing the baby crocodile
before we went to see it.
We made our way out of town
in a swelling blob,
carrying big sticks tossing
rocks at lizards in trees just past the cemetery
Mr. Jose and his white hair appeared,
said sure go on head on
down cause it was there
at the fork
behind his house
he’d seen it
in the little pond-swamp.
It wasn’t there,
just a bunch of tall scorched matted-down grass.
Back on the road
we knew we’d seen it
passing the cemetery
we made out its eyes
and snout
crossing the bridge into town
told everyone
we’d seen it move
when Siani
threw an old flip flop.

That evening we gloated in front of the pulpería
you fought over dropped change and offered me sips
of cold coke poured
from a glass bottle into a plastic baggie.
When your bread-baking (grand)mothers
called you
went home to bed, I kicked
a stone next to the town
pay phone, heard the
quiet, followed it
behind the house
next to the hog
pen where it crouched
in the clay oven.
The breads were still
cooling under cheesecloths on sheets
of aluminum
and the cinders had long
been swept
out with a broom
of branches the kids had been sent
to gather at dawn,
but the quiet smoldered
the clay dome,
warm and hollow.

—Kristi Ley, Sangkhlaburi, Thailand