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Nancy A. Henry



You looked at my mother
when I tried to kiss you,
I could see you were afraid,
when you said no, little miss
when you told me you were very dirty
you who were so clean
that if black could be scrubbed off
I'd have seen clear through you.
Clean enough to make
my school-day lunches with your hands,
to wipe my dirty face
when the neighbor girls spit at me
and dragged me through the blackberry thorns
and fire ants.
Fat girl, got her period,
serves you right.
Mae; clean cool sheets
and singing Lord, lord
till I feel asleep,
taking my trouble from me,
soaking my shame into your own skin,
not telling my mother anything
she didn't need to know.

Valedictory, 1977

No one would have thought it possible of our old gang,
all these triumphs
Rhonda and Jerome finally doing it
on her parents' bed while the first string watched
I remember her saying it felt good
and doubting her
but then there was Michael,
his brain knocked all over the place
in his skull, six months and three days in rehab
and the limp that won't go away; we dedicated
the tenth grade chorus recital to him
and Tina sang the solo, before she gave him back
his ring. Yes, Jon, who burned down
the equipment shed where we all kept our dope;
he survived our shunning and made it up to us
on senior skip day, six cases of beer
tied to the old innertubes on our river run.
We all made it through alive but one;
Randy, flipped out of that flatbed in the sandpits,
on the wrong side of a rollover,
how his mother cried for that bully, her sweet baby.
Melissa, stabbed fourteen times
by that crazy on angel dust,
you will not believe she survived it
when I tell you
how she crawled across the bedroom
to the phone, how he came back in, saw her still breathing,
and stabbed her again.




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