Esteban Ismael

Growing Up In The Cracks, Seedlings In The Streets

We took root in sidewalks when there were any,
followed mile-long tracks
in the street, hopscotch games in every direction
could break your Mama’s back
& every line your father’s missing spine, cracked
gravel a slit in a sick arm, soft
enough for a weed to poke through, a dandelion
or two bright as yellow rings
around a freshly-sunk bruise, a parabola of seeds
a rising puff of smoke

Even then the strong craving to come up on weeds:
swinging at chewed baseballs,
bats wrapped in duct tape, running over makeshift
plates, bricks & a Frisbee in the middle
of the road. Still, the game would turn to an all-out
hustle if that small flower
lay like a gold coin in the dirt. When it comes down
to it, there’s no such thing

as teammates: it’s fist to whoever’s trying to get it
over you. All for what we knew
was a promise that breaks with one breath, a seed-
shaped cloud becoming thin air.
Holding this cotton bud we’d do what we learned
at an early age: put all we got on
the gamble of bust seeds in the wind with a blunt
force the lungs can afford
& watch this white trickle loosen in different directions,
unpaved alleys, busy avenues

feed for the birds. How many took root
in the shallows, seedlings
in a wedge of sidewalk, in the yards
of weeds, trails cleared
by treading feet—these hopeful green
buds, tender, a promise
flowering in the front pocket even in
the hardest places, these
all too familiar futures, familiar seedlings
wilting on every street.

 

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