We slung harsh words like stones:
we spat at the white-haired boy
and called him freak.
We couldn’t see his long hair glowing like an opal in the dark waves of children flowing through the schoolyard. Someone should have led him to a safer place, a shady forest where it’s damp even in July. His forked white body might have rooted there, like the colorless and waxy plants that feed from trees and the rich litter of the forest floor. Perhaps he would have grown tall, sending hooded blooms into the dappled light. His opaque and fragile stalks would glow, would grow back, summer after summer, refusing to take root anywhere that’s bright and hard and noisy.
Deborah Burnham has lived in the Powelton area of Philadelphia forever. She walks to work in the English department at Penn where she teaches creative writing and literature, and advises students. She writes long repetitive sequences of poems, then slices and dices.