Poetry 2012 / Volume 43

Virginia — William Robison

Virginia took me walking down the railroad tracks
the Rock Island line north of the trestle
across Bayou Boeuf where Richard jumped in
to avoid being crushed by the oncoming train

I couldn’t have been more than three or four
Virginia was as old as the Pyramids
working for a white woman less than half her age
menial tasks: yes ma’am and childcare

I walked the rails like a circus tightrope
until I slipped and cut my foot on a rock
blood all over my heel, but she said to me
It’s all right, baby, and that was that

We went all the way up to the Big Ditch
stopped to visit at Arthur’s little grocery
where old colored people fussed over me
pale-skinned kid in short pants: That’s Miss Lucille’s boy

At times our partnership was rather adversarial
she put too much starch in my white Sunday shirt
which scratched like Satan’s talons beneath my black suit
in the old wooden church with the giant window fans

Even worse we lacked a proper clothesline
so she would hang up all the drip-dry clothes
on my brand new Christmas sliding board
interdicting afternoons of downhill thrills

She always wore a do-rag and smoked a tiny pipe
thin stem in her teeth, tobacco from a pouch
in the little brown bowl, and when she lit it
if I had been good, she would let me watch

One thought on “Virginia — William Robison

  1. Pingback: Current Issue: Volume 43, Number 1 — Poetry Issue, Fall 2012 | Coe Review

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