400 Years


Whores have little arms.


I cannot read the sign because I cannot read. The freckled woman says that I am too young to read but the boy that Julie likes can read.


I wrote a poem for Julie and decided to take it to her. Her mother told me she wasn’t at home but I heard her laugh in the other room. Her mother told me it was Julie’s sister. I asked her mother to give Julie the poem.

“I wrote it for Julie.” I said.
“Yes, dear. Yes, of course.” Her mom said.


Maybe Julie’s mother will give Julie the poem and Julie will read the poem and Julie will like me. Then she won’t like the boy who can read. Not after she reads my poem.


“How did you write the poem if you can’t read?” My brother asks me.
“Shut up.” I tell him. He doesn’t know anything about poems.
“I bet you just drew her a picture and called it a poem.” He says.
“Shut up.” I tell him again and walk out of the room.


I live on a street that has cars. At night, men and women sit in the cars. I don’t know why they don’t sit at home or on the porches. They probably can’t read.


The two whores on the street have shortened leggings. One of them is loosened in a sprawl and she is on the sidewalk and she is crying. She looks sad like it has ended. I saw a girl like this once, on television. My mother said it was a crack whore who didn’t do nothing right.


I tell the whore that she is a heathen. That is what Julie told the other boy in class and he laughed. I think it will make her laugh. She doesn’t hear me. So I tell her again.

“Heathen!” I shout.

I laugh like my brother laughs. I grab my belly and laugh like my brother laughs. He has a deep rooted laugh. I sound like I am old.


The other whore slaps me in the face.


The whores walk away. They walk down the alley. There are rats and other things in the alley. The alley looks like it moves in the dark. It is dark now. I guess they are going to cry in the alley where it is dark.


Heathens, I say again. I laugh again and decide to write Julie a poem.


There is a sign on my corner. I cannot read it. But there are bullet holes in the sign and someone wrote red words over black words. I decide to copy the sign. The red words are easier to read. I decide to copy the red words and not the black words.


I take the sign off its post and run away. I can copy the sign and give it to Julie. She will think I can read and then we will be together and she will not like that other boy.


The black letters say: Whites Only Beyond Here.


I run out of the city center and find a nice neighborhood with tree swings and wrap around porches. I sit on the front lawn of a big blue house. I copy the sign on a piece of paper from my uncle’s desk.


Later, I leave the sign on Julie’s front deck. Julie and I will hold hands now, I think. I am home.


Whores have little bellies.


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