I follow the dirt trail where the earth’s been packed down
to a small clearing in the woods by the railroad tracks.
Fresh from reading The Boxcar Children,
I’m not a dreamer, just a girl with a plan.
We’ll build a fort, a place for shelter and secrets,
a place where we can be ourselves.
We’ll make the rules, live the way we want to,
wade in the creek every day. Freckled and fierce,
we’ll spend hours at the playground,
avoiding adults who ask us why we aren’t in school.
We’ll scour the alley, looking for old bricks,
abandoned boards and still straight nails,
collecting bits of rope and sticks,
lucking out on a sheet of corrugated steel.
We’ll gather berries and eggs,
sleep under the stars, live off the land.
We’ll build a fire pit out of stones and bricks,
stretch a tarp over us when it rains.
Nevermind that winters are harsh
or that berries are only in season for weeks.
Nevermind that there aren’t any chickens
for us to steal eggs from.
Looking back, I remember craving freedom
and fairness and a place where I could be myself.
I want to tell that girl that she’s my favorite person,
that I love her tangled hair, her skinny knees
and her wild, searching soul. I want to say,
“Dream so hard it feels like you’ll burst from it,
burn brighter that you think is possible,
and read always, read every day of your life.”
Sarah Ockrim is a poet and painter. She lives in southwestern Virginia with her husband and two sons.