Ralph Tells His Grandson About a Decision He Made


The whistling wind was raw
and I barely had any jacket on
because I was young.

At the end of the alley
was a rigid, dead rat.

I remember thinking
that I had to make a choice:
whether to leave, then and there,

or whether to go back to my parents’
inferior brand of love, expressed
in food, mostly. Not what I needed,
but there it was, three times a day.

I chose to go back, of course.
I was only 10 years old, maybe 11.
But I paced in that alley for a long time,

and I buried the rat under the rosebush,
the one my father planted for my mother

on the day I was born.


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