two paths merge

by Madison M., 18


She is a slave girl in Alabama
Wrists scarred by the memories
Of the shackles embedded
Deep in her ancestors’ flesh
Salt still in her breath
From the briny wind that swept
Through the boat her mother
Swore herself she would never
Tell her daughter about.

Forms a gentle crown in her hair
Sticks to the one dress she owns
Chokes her as she sleeps at night
Blinds her eyes from the early dawn light
The cotton that her granddaughter
Will still pick to send
The first son of the family to college.

All the while calluses form on her palms
As a little girl in the future
Yes, writes
Stories and poems and math problems
And love letters
And she has the freedom to own
Her heart
Her body.


She is a farm girl in Ontario
Milky cheeks still flushed with rose
From the excitement of her
Ancestor’s teenage rebellion
Fleeing Germany and the military
That wrapped its trainings and ideals
Like a noose around the throat.

Blond strands lighting up in the sun
Ironically reminiscent of the gold chain
Of a necklace her father sees
In the store every day on his walk
Home from the market
Only ever looking in secret glances
Too poor to even own it in his thoughts.

And she works on the farm
But at night she has the freedom to
Wander across the plains of emerald grass
And to look up at an open sky
Until the cobalt dims to a lighter blue
And the sky mimics the
Beaches she longs to see
The freedom to dream of a little girl
Who could wake up after the sun
And marry a man she loved
And feel her wind-curled hair remain
In soft ringlets
But not need the beauty
To survive in the world.


And sometimes it takes
Years for the white fuzz of
An old dandelion to reach the
Place where wishes protrude into reality.

Years for packed dirt to be worn down
By thousands of feet moving
South to north
North to south
Meeting in the middle,
Mixing and treading on top of one another
Until you can’t tell one from the other.

Years for a slave girl down south
And a farm girl up north
To be bounded by one girl in Ohio
Soft unbounded wrists
And endless hours
To travel
Or stay in bed late
Covers pulled over her head
Waiting for the sun to peak in the sky
And fall back into the night.
Toledo, Ohio