Just a lanky child running after
Ten squirrelly brothers and sisters,
Dirty with depression dust
That no mother could wash away.
Hiding in the sharecropper’s fields
She became as alone and
Tall as twisted tomato stalks in a burrowed yard,
Always silent, never bored.
She was outside by the highway,
Bending down to flowers, cut.
Beaten down by physical abuse,
Her young body got up and ran away.
Fled Alabama in thirty-seven,
The clatter of the train and the bus following her.
I can see her cheek flush against
The window in the July heat.
She cut hair down at Rubby’s,
Then ate cheese on crackers
With the three other girls
She shared a drafty attic with.
A dime tip in Jackson
Meant a movie that night
Like Bringing Up Baby
Or Shall We Dance.
Then cigarettes were smoked
On the roof of their green shingled home,
And talk trailed on like calm and controlled
Cat tails in the breeze.