Aunt Mary wanted to mould me into a lady,
little finger cocked when drinking from a china cup.
She soaked me in classical music,
brought me in her Cadillac through the ghetto
to the Greater Cleveland Art Gallery.
When I needed to visit the Ladies, she lined
the seat with long strips of paper tissue.
Years later, I return to the States.
Browse in a mall, queue to use the Ladies.
The cubicle door opens, a tall woman steps out,
my age, my height, but not my colour.
I feel Aunt Mary near me, feel Aunt Mary in me,
as if the door had just swung into my face,
I realise why she reached for reams of white tissue.
And I’m back in her library room,
cocooned in a winged leather chair
reading How Green Was My Valley.
I hear a wash of conversation, the adults:
property prices will fall if just one family
of them move in. We’d be overrun.
I remember the bullet of shock
going through me, my home, my school,
when Bobby Kennedy was killed;
instead of the slight sting as if grazed
by a peashooter, for Martin Luther King.
What quagmire am I rooted in?