Memphis
by Emily C. McLemore

I traveled south and east to Tennessee with family in the month of June
When I was hardly more than nine, and I recall the black man at the drug store
Who lowered his eyes submissively to the steaming pavement
As I watched him with curiosity from the backseat of my motherís white station wagon
His worn skin and coarse black hair shining with perspiration in the high midday sun
He rubbed his unshaven chin, the stubble dense and graying
With large, leathery hands, his fingernails caked with dirt

In the evening, after the sun had set
My stepsister and I chased the glow of fireflies, dancing lights in the darkness
The warm air swirling heavily around our bare legs and arms, thick with mosquitoes 
Sweat, glistening on our faces and throats like sweetened moonwater
While the shadows of two little colored girls without shoes
Their feet covered with reddened dust from the dirt road, their dark hair in braids
Watched us from the road, and ate dime store candy

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Poem Copyright © 2002 by Emily C. McLemore

 

 

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