Wingfoot Lake – Rita dove

On her 36th birthday, Thomas had shown her her first swimming pool. It had been 

his favorite color, exactly—just 

so much of it, the swimmers’ white arms jutting 

into the chevrons of high society. 

She had rolled up her window 

and told him to drive on, fast. 
Now this act of mercy: four daughters 

dragging her to their husbands’ company picnic, 

white families on one side and them 

on the other, unpacking the same 

squeeze bottles of Heinz, the same 

waxy beef patties and Salem potato chip bags. 

So he was dead for the first time 

on Fourth of July—ten years ago 
had been harder, waiting for something to happen, 

and ten years before that, the girls 

like young horses eyeing the track. 

Last August she stood alone for hours 

in front of the T.V. set 

as a crow’s wing moved slowly through 

the white streets of government. 

That brave swimming 
scared her, like Joanna saying 

Mother, we’re Afro-Americans now! 

What did she know about Africa? 

Were there lakes like this one 

with a rowboat pushed under the pier? 

Or Thomas’ Great Mississippi 

with its sullen silks? (There was 

the Nile but the Nile belonged 
to God.) Where she came from 

was the past, 12 miles into town 

where nobody had locked their back door, 

and Goodyear hadn’t begun to dream of a park 

under the company symbol, a white foot 

sprouting two small wings.

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