Rachel Nix is an editor for cahoodaloodaling, Hobo Camp Review and Screen Door Review. Her own work has appeared or is forthcoming in L’Éphémère Review, Occulum and Pidgeonholes. She resides in Northwest Alabama and can be followed at @rachelnix_poet on Twitter.
I Was Five Years Old the First Time I Saw Anyone Different
In kindergarten, the year: 1989;
she arrived wearing a red dress, white polka-dots all over.
Her skin was dark, bright.
She looked like the first doll my mother gave me.
I wanted to hug her; instead, bashfully, I looked to her & smiled.
She smiled back, & that is all I recall.
Days later she was gone; a man,
someone less than a man,
follower of the KKK,
burned a cross in her Momma’s yard.
He did it, I presume, in the name of a god,
not one I’d care to claim. I wish
I remembered her name.
On a Commercial, After Admitting the New President Is Handsome
In 2008, my grandmother told me of her first time seeing a woman with dark skin.
She was a child in the 1940s
walking home through a wooded path
holding on to her older sister’s hand.
She saw the woman carrying a basket of goods,
maybe to sell;
that part of the story has left me.
She told me she was afraid,
that she’d never been told of such people.
She stiffened up & grabbed hold of her sister’s hand more tightly, who told her:
Now, don’t you be fearful of that woman.
She’s a fine woman, kind & good. You are to look at her
& show her your eyes, your smile. She’ll do the same.
(My town is still white.)
Freshman Year, 2002
My car broke down.
I was eighteen,
& had forgotten my phone at home.
The little change I had on me was taken by the pay phone
without granting my call.
In math class, a boy behind me asked why I was upset.
I told him I would be stuck there, nearly an hour from home
with no one to ask for help. He said:
Sweetie, I can take you home.
I know what it’s like. Really,
it’s no problem at all.
I was thankful, naïve of what it might mean
for him to show his face in my town.
He asked me where I lived, paused,
looked away & said:
I can only take you part-way.
I declined, thanked him.
I walked to a local diner, told the owner of my troubles.
She knew me,
knew I was a nice kid,
knew I liked both rice & potatoes
when I ordered my plate,
& was always trying to explain why I didn’t need two starches.
She gave me her phone, said: Make it quick.
Only local calls are free.
Asked me why I was rain-soaked,
why no one had offered help.
(I couldn’t say the wrong kind tried.)