Twice Removed
by Betsy Mars

A move I don’t remember except in the retelling,
reinforced through repetition and objects remaining —
sound filters through the window, memory
of samba and sands shifting, kite wings flapping,
traffic honking, voices drifting

up to our patio where we look down
like small, wanton gods, planning
on the unsuspecting city below:
an alien city that is awake and alive,
ripe with smells, sweet and foul.
We are the true aliens, green and foreign.

Birdcage squawks, hinges creak. Polly wants a cracker.
Cats prowl for rats illuminated under orange street
lights and lightly brushing water on cartoon images,
paint pustules burst with color hidden in paper pores

like the white chocolate which betrays its color
like the record player with its automatic arm,
levitating records which keep the music flowing.
Like red vinyl tempting like licorice, grooved and shiny —
like the plastic window stickers shedding stained glass light

like the sugar cubes doused with medicine —
the mountain called Sugar Loaf,
delicious for a five-year-old’s sweet imagination.
Swinging from a high line suspended in a car,
the cable pulling us towards redemption.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This is me on our apartment balcony in Rio, which itself was exotic and mysterious to me, peering at the creaky birdcage.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was four, my father — an academic — was assigned to a program in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. My exposure to a foreign culture and being an outsider at an early age gave me an understanding of and appreciation for languages and diversity. I grew up knowing that the life I lived was only one of many ways to experience the world. Music could be different, vowels could be pronounced in more than one way, seasons could be turned upside down, and true poverty was visible and heart-rending. Nevertheless, after several moves and being pulled away from friends and familiarity time and again, I’ve found I am rooted. I like to have my home base and explore outward from that sense of centeredness. Maybe all of that early moving helps to explain why I have hung on so tightly to so many nearly lifelong friendships. I’ve learned to let go a little more and that those relationships that matter will survive, despite distance and time apart.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy Mars is a writer, former school employee, former resident of Connecticut, Wisconsin, Los Angeles, and Rio de Janeiro. She currently lives in Southern California and devotes herself to her animals, adult children, endless unnecessary chores, searching for work, trip planning, and writing.