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This poem was submitted for the "Poetry for the Mind's Joy" project and is reproduced here with permission from the author. All rights reserved. Poetry for the Mind's Joy is Poet Laureate Kay Ryan's project that includes a community college poetry contest administered by the Community College Humanities Association and a lively videoconference.

In the center of a big, old group photograph, I shone
in a gray suit. I was far from the Middle Eastern oil
fields around which jets cried and helmeted,
camouflaged men left boot prints in the dust. To my
left you stood, with soft hair that ended at your nape.
During class, you watched me as I walked to the
front (before faces that would be erased from my
mind), stood on a stool, and wrote with white chalk
on the blackboard.

At my grandma’s home, you rode the red wooden
swing that creaked behind the massive mango tree
that was later cut down, its stump made into
a table.

You never knew about my nights, lying on
a polychrome mat; a few pillows held down the
mosquito net at the perimeter. The insects socialized
by the yellow light. The dog howled outside – it saw
ghosts, as Nanny said. In the hallway, insomnia
plagued my blonde doll.

You never tasted steamed rice soaked in coffee made
lighter with milk, which my older cousins taught me
to eat.

At least once you strode through the crisscrossed
wire gate and sat on the brown stairs, polished with
coconut husk.

How odd, your name is the reverse of your mother’s
name – from Liza to Azil, which sounds like
that Spanish adjective
mixed on a palette of words.

College of the Sequoias, Visalia, CA
Faculty Contact: Stacy C. Brand, Associate Professor/ Puente Co-Coordinator