And Mama grew up young down in a town
where the children flung rusty nickels and
dimes at the open mouth of industrialization.
Where morning came, and girls pressed braided
dandelion stalks under the rocks
by the highway—swollen fingers burying together
infirmity. There, the kids always
had a liking to crack bruised knuckles and yank
broken wisdom teeth from their jaw.
Rip apart each three leaf clover into four, and
shuffle a deck of pockmarked poker
cards at recess. And it was in that spring, when Mama
turned fourteen that she learned
what it meant to be a woman as free as the sweat
that slicked in her thighs. How to
spit watermelon seeds for contraceptive, and how
to occupy the full distance between fear
and sinew. Twilight, and Mama stayed out in the creek
alone, peeling strips of skin into
clementine, pale body riding the dark.