Voices 1956

Voices 1956 IllustrationArt by Abbi McKinnie

by Lennie Hay

Their voices leak through the screen door.
I am safe in our kitchen. Home.

Ching, Ching Chinaman
Sitting on a fence,
Couldn’t make a buck
Out of fifty-five cents.

I tip-toe across shiny linoleum,
hoist my six-year old body
into a red plastic-padded
chair at the table—
the family altar
nightly laden with rice,
devil fish floating in broth,
whole steamed walleye,
eyes staring at me,
sweet sausage.

I do not want stick-straight
black hair, olive skin so dark
I pop out of school pictures
a foreigner, a freak
in this Northern farming town.

I do not want platters
of food unless they hold
fried chicken or pork chops,
mashed potatoes, corn,
dinner rolls, rhubarb sauce.

On this afternoon,
I do not want this family.

I am mutt, mongrel,
mixed child.
Head lowered on my arms
crossed on metal table coolness.
Mother’s strong hand rubs my back,
as if to erase hurtful words she’s heard, too:

          Whose children are these?

About the Author
Lennie Hay lives in Kentucky and Florida. She is an MFA student in the Spalding University low-residency program. She draws creative energy and inspiration from friendships with other writers, visual artists, reflections on her family’s history, and all types of music. Her poems have been published in Trajectory, Odet, Literary Leo, BEATS, and she has a poem forthcoming in the next issue of Shanghai Literary Review.