While Swimming Laps, I Remember My Tree House

“Bless your heart, I want to say to my younger self.
You have no idea what’s coming.”
Christie Purifoy

Where the shagbark hickory grew—but wrong,
like a capital J—a skinny-bones kid

could escape. No. I reigned:
over bark and bank and lapping waves.

Sold on riprap, the neighbors disliked
my wildling realm. And yes,

some parents root out what offends
others, explain to their child, afterward,

her kingdom was bound to topple,
come the next storm. Some call this love.

But once upon a tree, Time shed
its yellowing gloves,

and in my freckled, believing
hands, those oblong leaves

became funnels for fireflies,
each tenderly rolled cone

painstakingly stitched
closed, with a twig. I remember

now, during lightless times,
those teeming jewels no longer

afloat in autumn twilight. And,
like an exile, I keep feeling around for

the old contours. Shelter. Mostly,
the twinkling.