Eyes rattle on paper plates
in swirls of crayons and markers
and words I do not understand,
words written by homeless children:
Sad is yellow one says—
another: don’t like you
with two tear droplets in glitter-glue and yellow
pipe-cleaner encircling it
just in case I forget how much she cried
when her brother’s fist came to her face.
The purple dips
into the bottom O of the paper plate,
where the young painter’s words remind me
that lost is blue mixed up with yellow.
Children are willing to give everything away.
Then there are vases of flowers and an old
photograph of me: I sit on the ground
between two standing girls—
my arms draped through a pillory at a theme park,
my tongue hanging out to appear exhausted,
my friend Tammy in her hip-huggers turning
her face, again, from the camera,
my cousin Christy—a showgirl
pointing out my plight.
We were fifteen-year-old virgins on the edge,
waiting for our lives to get started,
at the very least
not to wither away.
It never occurred to us that we would become nothing
to each other,
our arms spreading out,
each of us headed toward our own yellow emptiness.