I didn’t know I grow’d up poor.

I ate rich food three times a day,
My clothes were clean
And my sister’s old shoes fit perfectly,
And if we only ate at restaurants on our birthdays—
It was because Momma cooked so fine.

We had two cars,
Or a car and a half,
Cause that old truck had faded to pink
And Momma got worried
When Daddy went to chicken shows in
Winston-Salem—
And naw!
They ain’t fighting cocks,
They’re show-chickens,
Purebred and spoiled—
Daddy’s only hobby.

My Momma taught me my letters
And watched me read every book in the house,
Told me how to tell clock hands
And banned all them trashy soap operas,
Cause I’s too young
For that education—

And when my Daddy wasn’t too tired
From double-pay overtime that Momma prayed for,
He taught me how to tie my shoes
And plant tomaytahs,
To skip
And play jacks,
To dribble a basketball
With my left hand—

And when my sister got home from school,
I clung to her like a cocklebur,
Begging her to play with me—
So she taught me times-tables
And let me fiddle with her long blond hair,
And almost let me win when we raced
From the backdoor to the well-house and back,
With the dogs running along
Barking like Jesus had risen again—
We right wore ourselves out
Collecting candy from our kin
In Ivanhoe every Halloween,
Garnering praise for the costumes
That Momma pieced together
From felt scraps and stray buttons—
And the moon hung low over the Buick
As it crawled across unpaved roads,
And Momma rested her hand on Daddy’s arm
While I watched their silhouettes
Against the glow of the digital clock—

So how was I to know I grow’d up poor?


 

Emily Blair is a sophomore English major, double focusing in Creative Writing and Literature, with plans to graduate in Spring 2015. She would like to thank Kara Dodson, a Fall 2012 Virginia Tech graduate, for giving her the inspiration for “Earthshattering,” Dr. Jack Dudley, retired University Honors director, for believing she could give voice to Appalachia, and her family for never asking her to write or dream less.