Early in the morning, I leave my house
with my mother and stepfather sleeping.
Stashed in my red Greek bag are books,
my glasses, and an extra pair of jeans.
I leave for school as usual, with a piece of toast in my hand.
Walk in the high school’s heavy front doors and out the back.
Powerful—this feeling of freedom.

I wait at Loring Park, near my friend’s apartment,
until her mother goes to work.
Sit on one of the swings, brown hair
whipping my face in the wind, watching birds fly.
Paw the ground with toes of my moccasins,
the kind with fringe, the ones with thin leather for a sole.
It is a gray October morning, the long prelude to winter, just beginning.

A scruffy man comes by, I ask for a cigarette,
he gives me one and we talk,
blowing out plumes of smoke.
I try to tell how I’m changing the whole pattern of my life,
how I am only beginning to be free—
I want to eat freedom, drink it, live it.

I do not tell him I met a girl two days ago
who’s on the run from the detention center,
or that I will go to her apartment soon
and we will dye my hair black,
walk to the other side of town,
find somewhere to live.

I do not tell him that in a few weeks
she will steal the only things I have,
my red Greek bag
with my jeans and books
and glasses,
and go off with some bikers.
I don’t even know that yet.

Walking out of the park,
leaving empty swings behind,
I glance back at the swans
swimming around and around the pond.
Freedom strengthens me,
my innocence carries me,
as I walk into my own life.

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