Lock the door; don’t let anyone in!
Momma left us alone
to care for ourselves, right
after breakfast. She came back
in the afternoon arms loaded
with bags and boxes.
On the four poster, she laid out
treasures: pink and blue flowered
cotton panties and undershirts,
crisp, swishy petticoats,
red and blue plaid gathered skirts,
pleated skirts, jumpers with white blouses,
full-skirted dresses with Peter Pan collars.
All brand new for back to school.
We never chose a dress or shoe
from a store’s racks and stacks.
We never heard the words:
You can’t try that on here, or
Use the colored dressing room.
We never stood in line waiting
while the salesclerk served
tow-headed children and their Mommas
first. We didn’t see the pickets
parading Freedom Now signs
in front of Woolworth’s, didn’t see
the passers-by shove and push and
spit and yell Nigger!
We waited at home excited
for Momma all flushed and breathless
from carrying her downtown load.
We waited at home anxious
fingers crossed that what she chose
was what we wanted.
She left us home
ignorant of the price paid.