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  • Beatrice Iker

Poem #15: We Were Nameless Children

Updated: May 6, 2022

As children, we were cursed beneath the oak tree off Dandridge Avenue

we forgot our names

& everyone else forgot them too

Our mothers held us firm, fierce, fast in their trembling arms

but their tongues couldn’t make words that didn’t exist

we didn’t exist

not anymore

You asked me not to scream so much

As children, we ran up the church steps

eager, yearning to see each other

I held you in my arms, we were thick like the bacon in the skillet two rooms over

Mama didn’t let me in the kitchens

your Mama didn’t let you either

Nameless Children weren’t allowed that reverential experience

(we never felt right at church anyways)

As children, we walked down to Old Mrs. Evans’ house

She died in ‘87 we’re told

but the empty, scarlet house sat, begging for Nameless Children to find it

begging for us to make it a home again

So, we peeled off floral wallpaper in

thin, wispy curls

that never came away in the same direction or in the same size

We sat on couches with tiny, pointy, black mites

but they ran away when we kicked at them

You were afraid, so I was the only one who went into the bathroom

The dark ring inside the toilet isn’t what made me laugh

it was the way my hair looked right


when I was alone

among noxious mold

not in the sun, or when I was with you

You asked me not to scream so much

When we were teenagers

(our tongues slipping inside each other’s mouths)

I think we were looking for our names in each other’s body

because where else could they be?

we’d looked everywhere but there

all we found, though, was a craving

so shattered

so feverish

so without structure, hope, and goodness

it had to belong to us

You understand why I gotta scream, right?

They tore down Old Mrs. Evan’s house off Dandridge Avenue

(shopping mall)

They found dogs, cats, and a peculiar bird buried out back

but they didn’t find anything else

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