You can listen to Judith Ortiz Cofer as she reads this work.
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Balancing myself, hands on hips,
feet lined one after the other
on a cement wall between city buildings,
in the background a broken fire-escape
I used as a swing, as a trapeze.
I am skinny and brash, thirteen or fourteen,
aware of my bones, of the angles and curves
reforming my skin. I am challenging gravity
in my tight checked Capri pants
and man's shirt tied at the waist, pulled taut
over the one eighth of an inch padded points
waiting to fulfill their promise.
What was I thinking while I posed
for my neighbor's new Polaroid camera?
My parents are outside the frame, waiting
to see if the present moment can really
be captured on film. In seconds,
my mother will exclaim ¡Oye!
and ¡Mira! as I emerge from a milky bluish sea
spilling into the black square she holds
open-palmed, taller and older
than she remembers me only sixty seconds ago.
Father will look away as if he has suddenly heard
something in the distance,
perhaps a fire alarm.
From A Love Story Beginning in Spanish: Poems by Judith Ortiz Cofer. Publication pending. Originally published in Prairie Schooner (Volume 74, Summer 2000.). Used with permission of the author.