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Miss Virginia

Miss Virginia


She cried, as she sat on the back steps

for hours, rocking herself

and rubbing her hands.


When she did that we knew

she’d be going to Kings County again. *

Miss Virginia, hair barely covering her head,

black-rimmed glasses sitting on her nose,

eyes that saw more than she spoke of,

worried tone always in her voice.


She had to clean her husband Hilton's

greasy mechanic’s overalls, listen

to his slurred words and drunken belches;

wash her fast-talking son’s dirty,

sweaty, tee shirts, and know that he

tongue-kissed a woman in the front yard

as my mother watched from the porch.


How did she live with them?


She called her only daughter Honey Bunny,

sweetness in her life of sullen roomers

and haughty neighbors, on our block of row houses

sandwiched between red brick apartment buildings.


If she'd had another way, would she have danced,

carved something out of wood, shaped a life

for herself from clay, traveled to another state,

spoken with ancestors who could have

taken her by the hand and held her up?



* Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York