I kneel before a grade
school drinking fountain
and think about Rosa Parks as I draw in water.
My cough has become too frequent and embarrassing,
but I can breathe again—
long enough to apologize to Charisma for having left her
to read alone and to say I am so proud of her progress.
Her favorite food is shrimp, and her favorite part of winter is igloos.
She wouldn’t have given up her seat on the bus either. She isn’t afraid
of bats and knows more about echolocation than I do. Usually
I tune out the hate that bounces off the walls around me, but
Chicago is a place of corruption and protest in which my friends
are unhappy. The cough is what makes my throat sore—
It isn’t the other way around. She is the smartest in her class
and reads to me the whole time now. She points to a monocle
and calls it so. I wonder what year I learned that word. 2007?
She alludes again to the fire that happened in her house and when
she had to pack all of her stuff quickly, but I don’t push. It’s not
my business. She’s back to The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins
and asks where Princeton is. To answer New Jersey to any question
is a letdown, but she smiles and here we are—
wrapped in our moment of friendship, anticipating iguanodon,
and imagining how it felt to create the first anything from thin air.