My brother and I conjured a swamp of black water,
filled it with saw-toothed specimens, upping the ante
of our basement games. Any trek downstairs
meant taking the treacherous route—the jump
from the fifth stair onto a small castaway table,
followed by the precarious placement of the left foot
onto the fruit cellar’s metal latch, arms reaching
to suspend from the door’s sagging boards, twisting
to vault onto the abandoned coal bin, stretching
to a ceiling pipe and dangling arm over arm
to the adjourning laundry room for a quick breather
while standing in the tub of the wringer washer.
From there, we’d swing on clotheslines
out over the raging reptile pool with its vicious
inhabitants, a dozen mouths perpetually open
awaiting a feast of succulent humans,
and we’d balance atop a rusty file cabinet
filled with rattling bottles left by a previous
tenant, then make a leap to Safety Island—
the old couch at the far wall where we’d land
at last on mildewed upholstery,
take a fortifying breath for a catapult
to the outbound steps and passageway up
through angled cellar doors to the calm backyard.
Except on Monday, laundry day, there was no game.
The great Mother Monster, sister of Loch Ness,
took over that day, and all the alligators fled.