Stephani Maari Booker

Nowhere home

“They tore all the projects down, girl.
Ain’t nothin’ of where you lived there now.”

I drove out to the north end of town
to see where I once had to live.

The northbound street led to a long eastbound road.
Watching the north side of the street pass by my window,
I still looked for the changeover from real houses
to projects.

This main street leads to nothing.
Beyond the real houses now lies a barren, brown land.
The lot looks so small, narrow and ragged.

The community center is still there—without a community.
The housing commission is still there—without the housing.
You used to couldn’t see both buildings at the same time.

The space between the official buildings used to be filled
with rows and rows of two-story vinyl-covered, metal-doored
rectangular blocks of domiciles.

To the south, wire separates a rail yard from what used to be.
To the north, the hazy grey spires of the auto plant.

I know there aren’t enough kids living in the real houses
to fill up the local elementary school.
I’ll bet nobody’s crossing the catwalk over the freight trains
to go to the junior high.

Where I had to live
wasn’t a real house,
never felt like a home.

Now I know I was right—
When I was a child
I lived at nowhere.

Stephani Maari Booker’s poetry has been published most recently in Off the Coast, Adrienne: A Poetry Journal of Queer Women, and The Voices Project.