The corner store went up in flames, and he talked about it for weeks.
An armada of fire engines, lights flashing: a two year-old’s dream.
The smoke, the steam, the frozen spray coating
the trees, bushes, and house next door.
Then the shell was demolished, yet more excitement.
Crane, wrecking ball, backhoe, dump trucks,
construction workers directing traffic
in yellow safety vests.
All year, every time we drove by the vacant lot.
he pointed out, There’s where the building burned down!
He wouldn’t let me forget the fire I fear, how easy it could be
to find myself out in the cold watching our life blaze into ashes.
At the end of summer, a construction fence went up
as hard hatted surveyors measured and planned.
One day we passed the site to find it crawling with machines,
excavation of the foundation begun.
Mama! he screamed with what seemed overmuch fervor,
even for diggers in action. Where are the plants? he shrieked,
The plants are gone! Indeed, the neck-high weeds blanketing the property
had been ground up under the metal tracks of the equipment.
I told him they were to be replaced with a new building,
thinking he would be excited to watch it go up. But he began to sob,
No, make them put the plants back. I loved those plants.
They were green and had pretty flowers. Put them back!
I tried to explain that they were just weeds. I tried to explain
that many in the neighborhood have no cars,
nowhere else to walk for food. People often say
he is a kid you can explain things to, but there was no explaining this.
All I could do was pull over and hold him as he wept for the death
of flowers sown by the wind, the loss of green growing
for the sake of being green, the emptiness
of the earth left to do what it will.