I remember the day that bus rolled up
and delivered Alice Jackson.
It was 1971, and she was the only black kid
in our elementary school. She stepped off
into a sea of white. I felt the bass beat of her fear
pounding in my veins.

I knew that outsider feeling, even in third grade.
Chaos in our family followed me to class,
and after class to recess, where I was sometimes
picked. Once that line is drawn, no matter
how faintly or temporarily, division hovers,
taints, flavors.

Alice wore her best clothes, pressed
and starched, terror buttoned up in her little coat.
Nothing to lose, I reached out
and took her hand.

Published & Recorded by WCAI Poetry Sunday, Cape Cod, September 2017

This poem may not be reproduced without the author’s permission.