Toni K. Pacini
Momma said, “Never tell,” but everybody already knew.
Early, raw morning.
Light dared not enter the sorrowful little room.
Momma wakes us,
“Y’all git on up. I said git up now.”
The man from the county came,
and we quietly loaded into his car.
The roads were lined with kudzu,
that crazy southern vine that
covers half the south.
The kudzu was covered with
red road dust and mornin´ dew.
We jostled about on rutted country roads,
Then the county man pulled off the main road.
He parked in front of a large decrepit
We stood in line with the others,
heads down, no eyes making contact.
We were all happy to pretend that we
weren´t there at all.
The morning air was damp and brisk,
a day that might be filled with promise
for other little girls, but not for me.
At last, we reached the makeshift tables,
sheets of plywood on construction sawhorses.
The tables were covered with commodities,
yesterday´s food stamps.
This poor man´s cornucopia consisted of
over-stocked military food.
We quickly filled our croaker sack with
dried milk and eggs, non-perishable cheese,
like today´s Velveeta, rice, beans,
and a whole chicken in a can!
Walking back to the county man´s car,
Momma could barely carry the load,
but no one offered to help.
Hand-me-downs and living pillar-to-post.
Like the flag over the post office,
we were always in the wind,
and Momma was often flying half-mast.
Everyone in Pepperell Mill Village knew
I was the town drunk´s daughter.
White trash, not worth a quarter.
I vented my sorrow and anger in
small, secret ways.
When no prying eyes were watching,
and I wouldn´t be way-laid
I´d step on every crack, breaking Momma´s back,
and in victory run away.
Skipping out on the rent in the dead of the night,
making off with our sad possessions packed in
brown paper bags.
We would run to the safety of our next
Momma said, “Never tell,”
but everybody already knew.