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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Barbara Conrad


In the dream, I’m with my grown daughter

in a huge fitting room

in a multi-leveled store, with scaffolding

for clothing racks. She is trying on a white dress.

I tell her I want one like it.


When the page of the dream turns into a mall, we pass a Disney store.

In the window, a display from Frozen, a snowman costume, white

except for an orange nose.

I say I want that too, try on the headpiece, discover

it’s made to fit my grandchild.


What is all this longing?


I think of a film I saw at an art museum in the city,

every actor on the silent screen a brown- or black-skinned prisoner

wearing white. Stark and blinding white like an LED glow against

the bones of winter trees. But wait I say. Why not go back to the dream


in the mall, in the store, in the dressing room

where the scaffolding has fallen by now and the dress is missing.

My daughter digs in the rubble, finds another one, this time white

with red buttons.

This dress will never do.

What I want is pure white, lace and cotton,

warm from the iron.


Once my dead mother came to the foot of my bed.

She was shrouded in white.

I followed her through the back of the closet

onto a dark wooded path

to a bridge only she could cross.


I reached out after her.

It was like reaching for the moon.

Rainbow, at the Homeless Center

When a girl named Rainbow tells me

she’s living in her ex-boyfriend’s truck

in his sister-in-law’s cousin’s driveway,


I know she’s not fooling. Her mother

gave birth to her at fourteen in Arkansas,

she says. Because her teeth are half-rotted


nubs, I think of that smudge of a place deep

in the Ozarks I saw in a movie once, where

I could almost smell the methamphetamine,


though I’d never smelled it before, or lived

in a truck or gone begging

for a bag of food and a warm blanket.


How easy it would be for me, born

on the bright side, to speak of pity or guilt.

But that’s not my work here. Instead, this:


See the girl. Listen to her story.

Tell it to you. Maybe you’ll be the speaker of the poem.

Maybe you’ll be the girl.


Barbara Conrad is author of three poetry collections: The Gravity of Color, Wild Plums and her most recent, There Is a Field (2018). She is also Editor of Waiting for Soup, an anthology from her writing group at a center for homeless neighbors. Her poems have appeared in Tar River Poetry, Atlanta Review, Nine Mile, NC Literary Review, Broad River and several anthologies, such as Kakalak and Southern Poetry Anthology. Her poetry ranges from ironic takes on life to hard truths about social injustice.

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