...no matter how dark it seems. There's always a way.
We used to live above a bagel shop owned by
my father once told me.
I didn't care, their bagels were good.
My mother worked in a pastry shop
down the street,
ran by some guido.
I'm half guido.
She was a wop,
my neighbor told me.
My school was the same distance
as the pastry shop,
but in the other direction.
My uncle told me my teacher
was a chink.
I was excited about that because
I was going to learn a lot that year.
We would walk everywhere in Astoria.
We had a car.
Conked out in an intersection.
Mom hugged me until it was over.
My grandparents lived further down the street.
Grandpa said I wasn't allowed to walk over alone.
He warned me about "the
that lived in between.
We had encyclopedias in the apartment
was not a known species.
That terrified me.
My dad used to pick up things
from a convenience store,
owned by Habeeb.
I went there once, after school, to say "hi" and get a water.
That was not his name.
Mom had to run back to the pastry shop one night.
Told me, once,
Lock the door and wait here.
I heard a lock break, but not ours.
I remember unlocking two deadbolts and unfastening
I peered downstairs at two men with masks on.
One saw me.
I think he pretended that
I didn't exist.
That was nice of him.
First published in Cowbird, 2013