- Wingless Truth and: Palmetto Middle School, Summer I, Beauty Exchange II, Sunrise, FL
As the hairdresser sewed the wefts of hairinto the woman’s braidsshe pricked her fingerwith the curved sewing needle.Three drops of bloodsplattered across the smut-stained porch.
“Shit. Gimme dat papa towa ova dere.”She wiped the remaining bloodfrom her finger, and asked the woman:I think da resta it dropped on da porch,you see it?The woman said: Dis dirty ass porch,erry thang black, can’ see shit. Don’t matta no ways.
That small pain from her fingerburned in her echoing chest.She yearned for a child then,no image in mind.Only a feeling,
something to keep the daysfrom crawling into her bedsidethe way the men from the block did.Heavy, hot, and promising,but gone before nightfall.
She needed someoneto offset the soundof living with the trickleof their laughter.
In the winter, when her handsached too much to weave,she had a child.Skin sleek and black as mud,cheeks, a dark cherry-redand hair like tumbleweed.
After giving birth the mother diedwith a smile on her facethat the neighbors mistookfor a look of disapproval.
The aunts checked behind the child’s earsAnd sighed when they appeared darkerthan the child’s face.
They named her Slyke,as her hair was dark as smut,and her skin, like melting ice,sludge-colored and nothinglike Snow White. [End Page 206]
Palmetto Middle School, Summer I, Beauty Exchange II, Sunrise, FL
It wasn’t me who stared while you popped the muscles in your ass, while your hands were cupped over the hill of your knees—jukebox gypsies, shaking what they old girls gave them. Legs wider than the football field—never as wide when the babies came later. It wasn’t me who turned the implied into the actual. I didn’t let that boy fall in the space between my thighs. He was only hiding. The need for a body to hide in me, so the walls of my soul became silent, so echoes can be considered as voices, and those voices can be considered as real.
Where am I? I’m at the counter. “Fo’ packs of Remy, eighteen inches, numba twenty-seven.” While I am waiting people stare. I think we are back on the field behind the school. Coal-towood pigment girls, ass jiggle-wiggle clap, kneecap creak, spine arched, Uncle Luke on a boom box “DON’T STOP POP THAT POP THAT.” How I stood in the circle with the boys, our mouths wet with the sweat of your backs. “Dat’s it?” She snaps. For a moment I forget how to speak. “Naw, nemme get a pick-nthread,” I say. She rolls her eyes. “It’s two hunet even.” I reach for the money in my bra. She bends over behind the counter to retrieve a bag. The crack of her ass falling over her jeans. No one stares at me anymore. Just by the way she looks I know she can dance.
It wasn’t me, who went home in front of the mirror to practice folding my awkward limbs down. I’ve never been able to view my whole body in a mirror. My head is missing now. This is why I’ve never been kissed? This didn’t cause me to remember the Buick Regal his daddy kept brokedown in the garage. I can’t recall climbing into the back seat, embarrassed that I couldn’t quite fit without hanging my head out the window a little. He told me before we got there not to worry, that everyone is the same size when lying down. I remember gardening tools, spare tires, unused car parts, the smell of grass from the mower. How that smell took me back to the fields, the shaking of the car in sync with the music on the radio. It was sad I think. Finally learning how to dance and not being able to see it. His hands pressing on my knees, the pop my...