Mother, Mama, Sister, I

By Claudine Cain

Mother gives me a stern look, when she sees that I’ve stumbled. The mean girls pushed me down, laughed at me and the blood, my blood, that spilled against the rock where I skinned my knee.

The look she gives me says, “don’t you dare cry,” and I don’t, not this time. When mother turns her back to tend to the chores, mama reaches out her hand. I place my little palm in hers, listen to the soft sweet sounds of her crooning, the barely audible murmuring like salve to the bruises on my soul. “Don’t you pay them no mind,” she says before releasing the words to her song.

My dress is stained, so sister rubs some spit into the fabric before she adjusts the bow in hair. I got a lot of hair they say. Sister hands me a belt of licorice.

Me, mama, and sister wonder what mother will do. Mother just starts letting out all the dirty laundry she took in from white folks.

Mama smiles and sister winks. I just chew on my licorice a bit before I twirl it through my fingers like a whip.

Claudine Cain lives in North Carolina where she attended UNC Greensboro. She is the former editor of Black Elephant literary journal. Her fiction, art, and poetry have appeared in Riggwelter, Eunoia Review, Dime Show Review, Public Pool and elsewhere.

Art by Lesley C. Weston (Mixed Media)

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