3 Poems by Melissa McEwen


White Sheets

One summer down in Thomasville,
Alabama, my father took us to the
church he attended growing up. It
was small but it had a balcony. We sat
in the balcony. After the service we
made our way down to the church
basement. I could still hear the drums
pounding in my head. In the
basement, paper plates of chicken,
ham, green beans, collard greens,
yams, dressing, cornbread, and more was
being sold on long tables that had
white sheets for tablecloths. They
were white as can be. I could smell
the bleach, but it was all in my head
and made me dizzy. I remember
wanting my father to get his food and
come on. I was scared of being in a
church with so many of us Black
people, was afraid we'd attract the
wrong kind of attention, was afraid of
what I had read in class that past
February during Black History Month
about four young girls (I remember
their names: Addie Mae, Carole,
Cynthia, and Denise) that were killed
when a bomb exploded in the
basement of a Baptist church in
Birmingham, right here in Alabama.
And wasn't this a Baptist church?
And there were four of us---my three
sisters and me. And there were those
sheets, those big, bright, white sheets
spread across those tables that brought
to mind the men that planted the bomb
under the steps.


Even if you don't, I'll remember, always
the times we spent in the rented two family home
you lived in on Wade Ave and Joyce Street.
No cable, no wifi, but we had more than enough
entertainment provided to us by the woman
upstairs who yelled at her son as soon as he got off
the school bus. From the window she'd shout hurry the hell up.
bring your ass on, do this, do that
and those times
when he talked back, he got smacked around so hard
the walls would shake. You laughed when I said we should
call the police. And then there were your friends
that were always dropping in to smoke weed with you
or to borrow a few dollars, especially Mookie, with his O-Dog braids.
He was always broke, always getting arrested, always hungry
and going through your fridge like it was his, but
you never had anything in it. Breakfast for you was
the yooj--a cigarette, Coke, and bodega hot dogs.
You'd ask me if I wanted one and I'd give you that
you-know-I-don't-eat-meat type look, a duh type look
and you'd oh yeahhhh and buy me a bodega banana instead.
I know you remember that, but you will always
remember, more, the memories that were made
and the tragedy that occurred in the house before I came
and that incident outweighs everything. I'll always remember
what you told me, how you came home from work at 5 AM, how
your wife was in the bathroom getting ready for work and the water
was running. You didn't peep in to say Baby, I'm home. You never
did that, just went straight to bed. You remember dreaming about waterfalls
and how they fascinated you. Hours later it was the sound of running
water that woke you. You called her name, said You should've been left
hours ago
, although you had a feeling something was wrong. There was
water everywhere when you found her there, in just her bra and panties, 
on the bathroom floor-- not moving, not breathing.


I washed my hair
for you.

Had mama part it and plait it
for you.

I wanted you to see
how long it grew

since I've seent you

It's thick and curly
and grows so fast.

That's the Sicilian
in me from you.

I dream of you.
I miss you.

My aunts
think it's wrong

for me to love
you still

'cause you never
come around

when you say
you will

like now.


Melissa Dione McEwen is an on-again-off-again poet from Hartford, Connecticut, that graduated from the University of Pittsburgh ages ago with an English Writing degree (concentration in poetry). Her poems have appeared in various literary magazines, online and in print, such as Rattle, MiPOesias, Poets/Artists, and Black Magnolias Literary Journal, to name a few.