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We shoved our feet into mud-caked shoes
and ran to the old pecan tree at the end of the cul-de-sac.
Not even the smell of mom’s cooking,
boiling over a generational pot,
could keep us home.
The old pecan tree – stout, tall, caring, constant.
The branches wouldn’t budge
when we scrambled and swung to the top.
The base – a meeting spot to determine who would hide,
and who would seek.
We didn’t worry then.
Not even when we fell down running,
and grass nestled between
our chipped baby teeth.
Our yells reverberated through fences
that separated our backyards.
They were mazes, labyrinths.
The air felt fresher.
The nights felt warmer,
under humming streetlamps.
They burned orange – our setting sun.
And there were still fireflies,
that hadn’t yet choked on pollutants and weaponized pesticides.
We trapped them in mason jars.
There was a boy who lived beside me,
who had clover green eyes and a pale scar above his lip.
I can’t remember his name.
I wonder if he is still kind.
I wonder if he knew that one day,
we met with others at the old pecan tree,
for the last time.