My Last Day at Holy Cross

By Celeste Doaks

Outside the school they argued as the sun danced
on black asphalt. Momma’s nostrils flared as she spoke
to the nun in short staccato phrases. But she’s not stupid.
Sometimes she gets flustered. At age six, flustered didn’t compute
but I knew my troubled tongue was the problem. When reading
those Nan and Ted sentences stuck in my mouth like grains of salt,
clogged in a shaker that fell out in clumps, or sometimes not at all.
But this stutterer listened close until Miss Mary Mack,
complete with her white collar, said things I didn’t understand. She’s holding
back the rest of the class. Perhaps she should stay behind. Her voice chilled
with ice cubes while momma stayed hot as a furnace. And mostly,
I stood—my mouth buttoned shut—the same way I learned ballet.
My brown feet posed in some strange configuration, arms open,
slightly bent at the elbows as if asking for a hug. This is how I learned
every stance; how I learned my positions.
Celeste Doaks received her MFA this year from North Carolina State University. A poet and a journalist, she received the 2009 Academy of American Poets graduate prize.

Reprinted from Home Is Where: An Anthology of African American Poetry from the Carolinas, edited by Kwame Dawes. See review, page #.
Used with permission of the author and Hub City Press, Spartanburg SC.


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