I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils…
These were the lines that I recalled, as I gazed upon the clusters of daffodils that sprout each March on the unkempt embankment bordering the greenspace that was once the backyard of the demolished house next door. The peony bush that had sprouted wildly at the bottom of the house’s precariously dilapidated steps had been uprooted last summer during ongoing demolition. Yet, the daffodils have remained, together with the grazing deer that nibble the scrawny underbrush along the bordering embankment.
The demolished house, whose backyard was an extension of mine, had been abandoned even before I had moved off campus in the summer of 2015 to Bloomington’s historic Vinegar Hill district. Once the edifice that had housed the Indiana University Linguistics Club, it became the site of daily Bloomington Police Department surveillance last spring prior to its demolition.
This was the house that had fascinated me so much that it became the subject of a poem I published in Flying Island Magazine. So, I continued to gravitate toward its former backyard—so like an ancient burial ground, I had thought. I would continue to transfer dead tree branches and occasional litter from that wild greenspace to my dumpster with the diligence of a sacred groundskeeper.
A week before I was scheduled for my first COVID shot last March, once again, I was drawn toward that space—coldly sunny, circumspectly masked, and briskly tight circumambulation around my neighborhood block. And just as I had hoped, the daffodils were blooming there once again in cold spring sunlight. And once again, I snipped three of those tubular stems, and arranged the modest handful in a fluted glass vase at my personal Virgin Mary shrine in my cinderblock apartment.
I stepped out into the cold sunlight again, contemplating the possibility of adding a fourth daffodil to the triadic cluster at the Marian shrine. And again, I gazed upon the floral abundance in askew sunlight. The daffodils seemed to laugh at me in golden defiance—always just a little beyond my convenient, greedy reach.
I decided to let them be, and picked up surrounding trash with kitchen-gloved hands instead: a brown plastic Kroger bag, and a regular-sized plastic soda cup with a straw jabbed through the center of its lid.
When I redirected my heavy footsteps toward my dumpster, two BPD officers materialized before me. I blinked in bewilderment. They were like apparitions from last spring—the patrolmen who had been dispatched to apprehend squatters from the house that no longer existed. The soiled plastic bag flapped awkwardly in my left hand, while my right tilted the cup to maintain the straw’s angle to prevent the lid from flying away.
My neighbors, tenants who rent the house on the south side of the unmaintained embankment, had called 911 to report that I had trespassed on their private property.
The cheerful, round-faced interrogating officer jotted on his handheld notepad my name and cell phone number, assuring me that I was “not in any trouble.” I was further relieved to be told that he did not need to see my Indiana State identification card after all. It would have been a problematic hassle for me to run up my patio steps to retrieve my Coach wallet from my Artisan Gear backpack for that specific purpose.
I watched the two young men confer with each other for several minutes in the BPD car parked on the gravel-strewn alley between my duplex house and the dumpster. I imagined them complaining that they had been dispatched to the site of a ludicrously frivolous incident involving dumb IU girls. Nothing they could boast about over a couple of beers, or add to their personal dossier to apply for a promotion. As the gravel crunched beneath their tires, and the car rolled away, I finally dropped the trash into the dumpster.
Back at my apartment, I tapped away at my sleekly black ultrathin desktop keyboard to produce a status update on Facebook. During the rapid-fire accumulation of emojis and comments, I decided I would investigate the ownership status of that unkempt embankment, the ambiguous site of neighborly contention.
Chicago poet Angelique Zobitz sympathized with me when I posted that this instance of criminalization recalled for me Amanda Gorman’s recent experience. I also said to Bloomington civil rights activist Vauhxx Rush Booker: “Troubling as this entire experience is for me, I also realize how comparatively privileged I am because I’m not so sure BPD officers would’ve been so nice to me had I been Black instead of Asian American.”
Since then, the daffodils on the embankment have withered away—their mocking golden heads now dry brown flower mouths, shriveled and puckering sullenly.
And since then, it has been determined that the embankment, where they bloom riotously each spring, is actually an unpaved public right-of-way alley. The City of Bloomington’s Public Works department is now investigating its ownership status. My neighbors’ trespass allegations are now invalidated, and my heart is slightly lighter than it had been when the daffodils had bloomed one month ago.
Hiromi Yoshida is a freelance writer and editor, who serves as a diversity consultant for the Writers Guild at Bloomington. She edits copy for Gidra Magazine, and leads a poetry workshop for the award-winning VITAL program at the Monroe County Public Library. Her poems have been nominated for inclusion in the Sundress Best of the Net anthology, and have been added to the INverse Poetry Archive. She is the author of Joyce & Jung and the poetry chapbooks Icarus Burning and Epicanthus.