My mother fed me scraps of muslin,
empty shoeboxes, and wooden spools.
I built cardboard cottages,
scraped out villages of twigs
in the bare dirt of the back yard.
She showed me a tattered storybook
about little people who lived
in an old shoe beneath a rose bush.
Sometimes when alone I crawled
on hands and knees through the violets
to peer under the American beauty
that grew beside our kitchen stoop,
hoping to catch a glimpse
of tiny footprints
under the waxy leaves.
I liked the idea
of small people easily hid
and longed to discover
their secret realm,
to be privy to something
no one else dreamed of,
except perhaps my mother,
who stood in the kitchen
silently wiping coffee cups.
Didn’t she take particular care
of the rose bush,
dumping cold coffee grounds
around its thorny stems to help it grow?
I lined up rows of snapped off sticks
fashioning a house in case it was needed.
Flat on my belly
I pressed my chin into black dirt
watching worms wriggle
through the coffee grounds
with their little secrets.
-Amanda Berry (in Second Sight (Finishing Line Press) and first published in Edison Literary Review)