This they would burn: your dark
hands shelling peas while Vernon
fills the tank, ringing us up over
a penny cookie, a "Co-cola," as Barry
says, in the bottle. In a year or two,
the jar is empty, TWIGGS is on
twin graves, "Beloved and Kind
To Neighbors and Kin, Gone
But Not Forgotten."
The sweating
of the glass, the tadpoles floating
in the bucket the morning after,
fed on Coke and chips, the salt lick
by the cedars, they refuse to sense.
Easier to bypass the red highway
running through, clay-choked and
kudzued, than to sit wedged in the
back row, hearing Mamie sing "Lord
I would come to Thee-"
They trust
it will all be bulldozed, out of
backwards, shortly, and you two
with it, like the nine cedars secreting
rust-colored resin felled when the
road doubled for the logging trucks:
those stumps were buzzed right down
to the sticky root. You never called
Susie "African-American," but "Susie
Mae," leaving it at that.

How heavy will the small
"O take the stain of guilt away"
circumference of your lives
"And own me as thy child"
weigh, I wonder, at the last?
"I cannot live in sin"

Rachael Nichols
RACHAEL NICHOLS is currently writing a master's thesis on James K. Baxter, a New Zealand poet, in Hamilton, New Zealand on a Fulbright scholarship. She was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, and got her B.A. in Latin and Russian from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.