The Web ROW
“The world’s children are perhaps its most truthful and sensitive observers.”

—Pamela Michael, River of Words co-founder
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Born on the water,
You lived, breathed the dusty Ozark trails.
Appreciated the finer things in life—
Hands wrinkled from hard work and home-cooked meals,
Hand rolled cigarettes and faded pictures—
You spent your days wheezing away.

Your sister killed your kittens
With a hissing black pot;
You were left creedless.
At sixteen you married
A man twenty-two years your elder.
After that, you never felt pity,
Not even for yourself.

Still, you knew that flowers would thrive
Inside a bath tub in your front yard
And your creaking heater was all
You needed to make it through the night,
Along with your pills.
When we'd visit
You couldn't hear us even with
Your hearing aid in,
So we'd all scream a little louder,
Then whisper insults under our breath.
The stench of the cigarettes you rolled
And the cabbage you boiled
Clung to our clothes as we hurried out the door.

I hated it.

If we visited now,
We would smell like your body
Mixed with the ashes covering the ground...
And I don't know which is worse.

You picked cotton with a
baby strapped to your back.
My mom keeps a cotton seed in her car,
Along with your obituary.
You picked cotton for a few cents a day,
And here I stand.
I shudder; it tumbles away.

2010 Finalist
Olivia Almeida, age 17
Rayne, Louisiana
Acadiana High School (Lafayette)
Teacher: Caroline Ancelet