The First Time
Cynthia Robinson Young
Two events I always confuse,
as if they happened on the same day
when I was five years old, living
in a house we had moved away from
when I was four.
A little white girl I called my friend;
a playground swing set in her backyard:
My little playmate, come out and play with me.
I played whatever she wanted,
but the one time I didn’t, she called me a nigger
and dismissed me, pointing me back
to my house next door.
I remember sadness siting in my mother’s kitchen
covering the sun with troubled clouds
when I asked her what that word meant.
Then there’s the second event:
Me, on the same afternoon,
back on the neighbor’s swing, flying high
as if no mean words were ever said—
My dress is white like the clouds,
the clouds like cotton candy,
the sky a baby blue in which I soar,
my brown legs pumping high in the air,
but my dress
is now stained red, bleeding
from a word
made into a weapon to pierce my spirit,
a violent slaughter,
of all the future times
I will forget to remember
to guard my heart.
Cynthia Robinson Young is an adjunct poetry professor in Georgia. Her work has appeared in magazines and journals including The Writer's Chronicle, Sixfold, The Amistad, Grist, and Poetry South. She is the author of the chapbook, Migration (Finishing Line Press).