Crab Orchard Review, 21:1-2 (2017)
LATE FOR READING, 1959
Skinny second-grade sharecropper boys:
straw-headed, lizard-eyed, sores scratched open.
Nehi for supper, Baby Ruth for lunch.
Cussing already. They run in packs.
They drink no milk. They eat no peas.
First week of first grade. I don’t know
the ropes. Past swings, coal pile,
whitewashed gym—I’ve gone too far.
Red apple half-eaten in my hand.
They brush no teeth.
Heavy-sweet hedge, honeysuckle
to pluck to touch to tongue-tip.
Yellow jackets swarm. First bell.
I drop the apple before it stings.
They kiss no mother.
Three—long-legged, too fast.
Cheek fisted down, mouth spitting grit.
Up my dress, ragged nails dig past elastic.
Last bell rings. I’m late for Reading.
They live in dust. Find home in fields.