When Asked About My People I Say

by Emily Nason

My grandmother kept Polaroids
of a 1949 lynching tucked
under her mattress,
sent them to me in an envelope
when I asked a black boy to prom.
No return address, but I knew.
This is the South
that birthed me. This is
the South that made me numb
to violation. I know to eat
enough to put meat on my bones,
to hold my whiskey poorly,
to close my legs to men
who misuse y’all, to be funny
because my hair ain’t high,
so I’m no closer to God than you.
When did I realize that my accent
made me kudzu-trash,
that someone placed a hex on my blood
when I was still in the cradle?
So I grew crooked, spine-first,
bent over like I was hammering
white wooden crosses alongside the highway.
I pass them when I drive south
from Ohio. I count them.
I wonder how many of them I knew.

EMILY NASON is from Columbia, South Carolina, and is a senior at Kenyon College. Her poetry has also appeared in the Kenyon Review and the Georgia Review.