Plantation summer

Woodbine, lilac
two branches fallen, swaying in the mud-washed shallows.
The slow scrape of birches unraveling on the dyke—
one day they will be hard and smooth, lovable.
Wisteria twines on the white porch walls.
A cast-iron floor, pewter: the image of my grandfather
the flow of rainwater in a sewage pipe.

I press pen to paper like needle to a sore, solid wound, draining the pus.

A pendant hung between the window blinds on the old plantation,
in damask and china wrapped. A gift,
for his angel of the washbasin.

His wife asked once why he did it.

He didn’t think of it as wrong, at the time.
A child dark-eyed and silent under horse’s hooves:
I didn’t know any better either.

When a black woman gave me her smiles,
I returned them.
When a white man gave me his name,
I could not bear it.

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