Black skinned Margaret, calls me Susie
as if I am family, takes me to her field. Rake and hoe,
she’s pried open the earth with hands and sweat,
taken the magic of seeds and planted half an acre.
I step through her verdant garden,
mud weighing down my shoes, while Margaret
whispers secrets about a stick, dry wood
slid in next to the seedling, poked deep into red dirt,
how a hole like that gathers water, a direct line
to the heart of the cabbage.
I laugh because I call myself Wooden Woman,
reaching out’s stiff and awkward, I glance over clean
white socks, mud gripped, filth seeping
into my bright orange shoes. And still
she grabs my elbow, ushers me into her home.
I smell her humanness as she shows me her skills,
school uniforms she sews—a business
treadled between sun and clay
of the garden. I wash my hands every day
how many times with sanitizer, combating
dirt and bacteria, parasites and illness, yes, I am
immunized, passport and ticket home around my waist.
Margaret is not afraid. She squeezes my hand,
roasts ground nuts and serves porridge, she
looks straight into my eyes, despite the drought.
Margaret searches warm soda bottles and fishes out
a Fanta to match my shoes. For Susie, she calls again
the childhood name reserved for my closest relatives—
as if all my knowledge and money were not pauper’s gifts;
as if the hole in her HIV positive life,
were completely filled to brimming
with my whispered thank you.