When the yelling became too loud
and the vomit in the toilet
smelled of bile and liquor

my brother and I would hide
racing inside my bedroom closet

We pushed aside
a cheap outgrown slipper
and crouched

beneath outdated jackets
that Mom somehow couldn’t prune
from our wardrobes

With pencils
we sketched on the wall
an escape route

and composed a magical chant
we hoped would open
some portal out the back

We illustrated the topography
of normalcy, of wishful

Recently I visited
bringing my own son
to see his grandparents

all smiles now, no more bitter
business in the bathroom

While they busied themselves
trimming the lawn
cutting back annuals

I peered inside the closet

Preserved in time
our childhood

like an elementary school
cave painting, the lead
pencil marks remain

reflecting with chagrin
the past we all need
so desperately
to forget.