Of all the ugly she'd seen scorched
into that Georgia red clay
she remembered most the teeth-grinding silence
as the old man stepped over
his boy's hunched frame;
all the weakness beaten from his bird-bones
and milk skin.
He never screamed, that sweet child of hers -
just bit his fist
til blood burst forth
and took his medicine like a good boy.
They laundered his sheets with salt tears
his chalk cheek pressed tight to her breast as
she stitched his battered skin;
and if the night grew crowded
with his quick-stifled cries
she'd croon lullabies into his damp hair -
songs of boys who walk as lovers
like lawless love
and bottomless joy.