Elsie Accompanies Dr. Williams and His Family on Summer Outings

1921

reared by the state and sent out at fifteen to work in some hard-pressed house in the suburbs—some doctor’s family


She’s blued Flossie’s sheets, soaked diapers
in borax, wrung the doctor’s socks, bleached
the family’s stains, and now she hopes
to cool herself in the meadow stream.

For her grandmother with Lenape eyes
and a furrowed face, she mailed a penny
postcard of Candlewood Lake.

Stopping for silver-queen corn,
the doctor met a shy black farmer.
You have mingled blood, the doctor told Elsie.
Ask him for a tour. The farmer showed them
goats, speckled roosters, a trough of rain.

The freshet swirls her shift as she stoops,
burnishes her arms with golden soap.

 
 

William Kelley Woolfitt teaches creative writing and American literature at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. He is the author of two forthcoming chapbooks: The Salvager’s Arts (poetry), co-winner of the Keystone Prize, and The Boy with Fire in His Mouth (fiction), winner of the Epiphany Editions contest. His poems and stories appear in Shenandoah, Michigan Quarterly Review, Threepenny Review, New Ohio Review, Appalachian Heritage, The Cincinnati Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Ninth Letter, River Styx, Virginia Quarterly Review’s Instapoetry Series, and elsewhere.