Once, I was a daughter of this place:
daughter of Gwen, granddaughter
of Leretta, great of Eugenia McGee.
I was baptized in the church
my great-aunt founded, behind
the drapes my grandmother sewed.
As a child, I dozed in the pews
and woke to chant the Lord’s Prayer—
mouthing the lines I did not learn.
Still a girl, I put down the red flower
and wore a white bloom pinned to my chest—
the mark of loss: a motherless child. All
the elders knew who I was, recalled me
each time I came home and spoke
my ancestor’s names—Sugar, Son Dixon—
a native tongue. What is home but a cradle
of the past? Too long gone, I’ve found
my key in the lock of the old house
will not turn—a narrative of rust;
and everywhere the lacuna of vacant lots,
for sale signs, a notice reading Condemned.
In Verse is supported by Public Radio Makers Quest 2.0, an initiative of AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio. This project is made possible with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by a broadcast partnership with Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen.