Ladyship

"Yeah, me and Mattie, we was always together,"
Carla told me, "in that state school
we smoke together, dance together,
we always laughin', raisin' hell together;
couldn't nothin' break that ladyship.
One day after class we climb the fence,
run away together--she held my hand
when my first baby came in the woods."

"Pregnant again?" Carla's social worker sighed.
"What is Miss Barnes trying to do,
populate the entire state of Maryland?"

"The first one I called Carlene," Carla said.
"Then came Danny Lee, then Markie,
then Joseph and Mary, the twins--
they in the same foster home--
I got to get out of here, start raisin' up them kids!"

Word came down the street-vine
how Carla went into labor in an alley,
screaming so wild the cops took her
to St. Elizabeth's instead of DC General.
They say the baby came breech-birth
on the psychiatrist's floor--Carla screaming
something about the woods,
trying to hold the nurse's bloody hand.

Last week I saw Carla on N Street.
She had a new wig with a pink ribbon.
Said she was cleaning floors for some blind lady,
said a little girl came out of her sucking her fingers.
Carla turned, turned back;
"Hey, Wyomi, I tell you I name this one Mattie?"

Naomi Thiers was a Washington, D.C.-area poet whose work had been published in literary magazines and in the 1981 Sri Chinmoy Anthology of Spiritual Poetry at the time this poem appeared.

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