In the bare playground on Third Avenue,
girls play hide and seek.
They are forbidden to leave the playground,
instructed not to approach the toilet.
I do not feel unsafe here —
the men carrying on conversations
with invisible companions
leave mothers and children alone.
The hiding child, gazelle in flight freezes
on command, stands immobile behind a lamppost
crouches under a bench, limbs drawn in,
cleaves to the slender London Plane tree.
The seekers run in narrowing circles,
careful not to look at the small figure
uncamouflaged in red, yellow, blue.
Then with just the right timing, one exclaims:
“There I see you! Come out!” unless the girl,
tired of staying in the same pose, moves, turns
her head, accidentally meets an opponent’s eyes,
she is found immediately, the cover blown.
I watch, pretending to be immersed in a book.
Helen Tzagoloff has been published in Barrow Street, Poetry East, The Evansville Review, Slant Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, Interpoezia: A Stranger at Home anthology and other journals. She has been nominated for the Pushcart prize and was the winner of the Icarus Literary Contest. A book of poems: Listening to the Thunder, has been published by Oliver Arts & Open Press.