Down The Bank
Catherine Pritchard Childress

Red dirt held a promise that mattered
to a girl and boy looking to spend the day
digging for night-crawlers with sticks
and spoons snuck from the same drawer
where Mama thought her Mr. Goodbars
were hidden,

Clay-stained seats of cutoff jeans told
bumpy adventures down the bank where
crusty-lipped RC bottles mined from neighbor's
trash and roadside ditches became shiny dimes
to spend on two-cent bubble gum and Cokes
at Hughes's Store

where cats slept beside the blade set for cutting
thick slices of bologna and where inability
to back down from a big brother's dare pulled me
down the candy aisle to fill my pudgy, rusty hands
with treats I wouldn't pay for
but knew I should,

Red dirt held a promise that mattered
to a girl home-grown on The Ten Commandments,
The Golden Rule, and a black leather belt
with a glowering brass buckle, used liberally
by strong, loving hands.  A lesson
in each lick.

The weight of dirty pockets measured the trip
across a plank bridge through the mire
towards home, where the brother I adored waited
to receive his portion of the spoils, to show
approval that I longed for,
but didn’t deserve.

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