When you were two, we snapped this photo on the island. Back
when your hair tickled your shoulders... [+]
I went to Philadelphia to see the house that I grew up in.
It’s being demolished to make room
For one of those fancy grocery stores.
There is no longer a park for the kids to play,
But the library is still there.
I’d go after school and read romance novels
And trace the cover of vinyl records.
The librarian was old and smelled like Jean Nate.
I had my own room in our house,
On the top floor of our three-story home.
The walls were painted an awful shade of blue—
My parents were expecting a boy that never came.
They got me instead and I slept upstairs alone,
The only daughter of a blues player.
One morning, I woke up to the sound of a familiar tune.
It played without my prompting,
An awful lullaby that I could never get right.
This time, my genius blocked by
A piece of meat hanging from my top lip,
The result of a fight with Barry Jackson.
But the tune was always too salty and too sweet
Like the caramel popcorn from Coney Island.
Or like my mother before her morning cigarette.
The gift of music, too heavy a burden for a child to bare.
I wanted to go back home, see the house one more time.
It was a dreadful winter in Chicago.
With my father marrying another woman;
My mother confined to her bed, with
One of those diseases of the mind.
I have no siblings to comfort me,
No girlfriend to say, Are you okay?
My house, the only relief from the Chicago cold.
It’s easy to walk in the neighborhood now.
All the old dead, the young moved to higher ground.
Barry Jackson is now lifeless.
The owner of the bodega on 13th,
Shot and killed.
Nothing looks the same
Or reminds me of happier times,
But I prefer it that way.
Even my husband decided he was weary of me.
Despite the knowing touches hours before.
My children will come to this place,
Asking questions that I have yet to answer.
Here is what I learned being the daughter of a blues player;
One never has a place to truly call home.