It was quite a common sight to see a group of women
gathered on the porch sharing a plate of dirt.
– Dr. Dennis Frate
In my grandparents’ pine-thicket
there was an open space, depressed,
where water would pool in spring,
dry-up in summer, cracked ground
as if hundreds of broken red plates
had been tossed in a pile.
Linda and I would play tea party,
arrange a table on the grass,
azalea blooms at each fractured setting.
Some days we would dig deeper
find real treasure –
white clay, kaolin
soft as cheese for imaginary crackers.
Once, my granny watched me
pretend to nibble,
“Stop it! That’s what poor women do.”
I dug small holes, buried the white chalk,
then sucked my marked fingers,
discovered the sweet bitterness of earth.
The cool kid in second grade
wasn’t me, but I got to sit
neatly in a row with others
out of reach of Annie, who hit
so many times, she’d been exiled
to a desk outside arm’s reach
of any other student,
right beside our teacher.
On Valentine’s day,
we hung pouches, heart shaped,
along the bottom of the blackboard,
ate candy hearts until our bellies ached,
but the real ache was watching Annie
check her pouch over and again
only finding one from Mrs. Miller.
In second grade, we’d learned to sin,
already shunning girls like Annie.
My mother had made me sign cards
for every student in class, but one
never made it past the schoolyard.