The year of the Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco
everything came crashing down: the Berlin Wall,
my mother’s second marriage. Inches from the TV,
we watched cars drive off the bridge into the water.
Nothing was solid enough to hold anything else.
On the advice of my mother’s astrologer,
we flew out to Santa Fe, spent a week
looking at houses we couldn’t afford.
I followed my brother and sister through
adobe brick homes, fingered the curtains,
stared at the high desert plains, wondered
Is this where everything gets better?
We drove to Canyon Road—art galleries and studios,
pretended to shop. An artist stepped toward me
and pressed a wrapped package into my hands.
A gift to open when you get home, he said.
Out on the sidewalk, my mother snapped,
You better watch your step, young lady.
Maybe you can act like a slut at school,
but you won’t get away with it here.
Later, when I unwrapped the paper,
I discovered a framed pastel drawing—
a young woman with braids
standing under a rainbow sky.
The artist had scrawled a smiley face
with a handwritten note on the back,
Don’t hide your light under a bushel.
I was nineteen—anything could happen.