What I Wanted
by Margaret Chula
All my life, I wanted to ride bareback on a tiger through
the jungles of Borneo, to race by warthogs gorging on
pineapples, past headhunters with their poisonous darts
sheathed, mouths agape.
I wanted to outstrip Lady Godiva—her everlasting tresses,
her smirk of satisfaction shocking even Adam and Eve
as they cavorted in their own pleasure.
I wanted to be a swan on a lake in Shangri-La, folding
my wings around a lover as I glided past frogs, their lips
puckered like princes’ before they plopped into mud.
I longed to find paradise in a place. To lie in a hammock
on the island of Boracay, swaddled in a sarong, reading
Lady Chatterley’s Lover while peeling back the bruised
skins of mangosteens.
Instead, I spent my childhood looking out at an ash pile
in the back yard where Nana would empty ashes
from the wood stove and later toss in the limp kitten
run over by a speeding car on Bennett Meadow Road.
I made my heaven on King Phillip’s Hill—building a fort,
shooting arrows into the spines of birches, galloping
on my imaginary pony down the Mayflower Trail.
Instead, I passed my thirteenth summer on Maple Street
lying in the grass reading about Scarlett and Rhett
and her beloved plantation, my tomboy knees hidden
beneath pedal pushers waiting for the moment
when I’d peel off the scabs and begin to live.
Margaret Chula has published eight collections of poetry including, most recently, Daffodils at Twilight. Grants from the Oregon Arts Commission and the Regional Arts and Culture Council have supported her work as well as fellowships to the Vermont Studio Center, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and Playa. She has served as president of the Tanka Society of America and as Poet Laureate for Friends of Chamber Music. Living in Kyoto for twelve years, she now makes her home in Portland, Oregon. Visit her at: www.margaretchula.com.