Two Poems

Mayella Dreams of White

Sleep ain’t no easy thing.

When day dawned
and my sore face
wouldn’t turn no more, I began dreamin’
about sky that hugged cream-
colored dirt.

My skin like cold
butter, like rich folk, like school
girls in white dresses.

I cried: “Here’s Mayella.
Hey Maycomb, here’s Mayella Ewell,”
and there weren’t no answer
cause I was so bright even geraniums
couldn’t outshine me—no not even sun.

From that big ole’ ground
sprung red geranium lips. I layed my white form
down on ‘em without fear of stain,
and a hand squeezed my scarlet heart.


To Tom Robinson

from Mayella Ewell

It is a hard thing
to wash in a dump. I carry one
square cloth to rub the dirt
away, but hands never keep clean.

I hated your fresh face,
and I’m glad death
made you a dirty man.

I have a right to be empty
as any corpse.
Weren’t you just so
alive with your one arm,
your colored wife, and blue shack.

What a hard thing to be alone
amongst all the dirty noise. You can’t
plug all them kid’s mouths.

Your singin’ weren’t all bad
geraniums need some song.

They shut pa’s lungs
along with yourn. Folks
said it were his blade,
but eyes know better.

If someone would’ve spoke things wouldn’t be so hard.

—Elise Gregory, Ellsworth, WI