Sylvia

Dirt roads make a lot of noise
On dry days
I always feel like a giant
Moving the earth with each step
But no one ever hurries away
It used to startle me when I was younger

I move through the playground of the old school
Like it is a maze
I hate them when they are so empty
I can almost see children from the past
Staring like empty shadows
You can almost hear them yelling

Down the hall
Here’s where you feel like
A giant
Paintings along the walls
Shoes echoing
It’s almost like a hospital
Only different
It doesn’t feel sterile
It feels like something else
A thousand shadows ….

Through the door
And there she is
Sitting
On her knees
A little girl
What’s her name ?
Damn I wrote it down
What was it
Started with an s…
Rachael ? Carol ?
Sylvia …that’s it.
She’s looking at national geographic
Suddenly I feel old
Very old
And very tired
I’m only 25
I’ve worked with the president
I’ve worked with the media
I’ve seen the war
Now
I’m seeing a little girl
That I’ve been looking for
For three months
And I feel old ….

I sit down
She brushes her hair out of her face
And turns the page
It has elephants
She looks up at me
Only when I ask her if she likes elephants
“They’re my favorite ”
She says
And I see her brown eyes
But they feel grey

I see the American flag outside waving
I look at her
It’s a good day for September
But it feels hollow
My name is John
I like tigers
And rabbits
I don’t know why …
They’re pretty cool though

I sit down beside her and start drawing
Inside the book

How’s your day going?

She stops
And looks at me
Shrugs her shoulders
“Not so good…I cried earlier”

What made you cry?
I ask

“The flag”

Was it when you were saying the pledge?

She looks at the elephants

“Yeah I guess it was…”

It’s ok…you can talk about it …
What happened then?

” I saw soldiers
And a fence
And I couldn’t breathe
And then I woke up”

Mr shepherd!!
A woman’s voice brought me back
She’s tall
And sharp
And her voice has far too much
Energy in it
But she acts like she’s calm
And tilts her head
And touches her chin when she talks
“You can’t be in here! You were not permitted to be in here!”

“I have to go
But I want to play again
Sometime
Could I stop by ?
Talk some more?
Maybe there’s vampires or something else?”

“Yeah I guess so …”
She stops
And then takes a deep breath
Crinkles her nose with a look
Of determination
“And could you bring a book
Your favorite one?”

I smile
“Yeah I can do that,Sylvia”

Sunday

It’s after church
And I can hear my best friend
Carol saying something
About how religion isn’t anything
But a crutch
And we all came from nothing
And it gets on her nerves
This doesn’t bother me though
I’m used to it
I’ve been in church
I’ve seen people praying in tongues
I’ve seen my grandfather handle snakes
I personally don’t care to handle either
I think it’s very personal
A relationship with God is personal
Or at least mine is …
I don’t know
I doubt myself a lot
So what do I know

I’m thinking
As I watch Sylvia’s family leave the service
And I look over at the flag

And Carol says something
“You can’t
Write this you know…
They’ll hang you for it…
Aren’t you afraid?”

I looked at her
And for the first time in a long time
I didn’t feel anything
“Maybe I’m more afraid of what happens if I don’t write it…”

So I’m typing
The story of Sylvia
And how
150,000 families
Were
Taken by american troops
To 10 american enternment
Camps in the furthest corners
And most remote regions of the
Country
Without due process
After President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the deportation and incarceration with Executive Order 9066, issued February 19, 1942,
For any and all people
with Japanese ancestry to be excluded
From the entire west coast.

I’m typing about how she saw the American flag every morning
From the inside of a fence
And said the pledge
“With Liberty and justice for all”
I’m typing
About how this nation
Is only as good as the good men and women who put feet to the fire
I’m typing about how it is as bad
And fallible as these same people
We are flawed

This is the story of Sylvia
One of
The last American girl’s
She sees vampires
In playgrounds
And talks to the antichrist
Over lunch
She sees shadows of elephants
Outside her room
She’s a little girl who saw
Her flag from the inside of a fence …
Until 1946

I’m typing
Because I’m more afraid
Of what happens if I don’t

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