Merna Dyer Skinner1 (on right at 6 years of age)  With sister, Gloria
Southern Bound White Girl
by Merna Dyer Skinner

Traveling slow as heat along the Dixie Highway
we pass bare-bottom brown boys digging in dirt.
An old woman sits outside her one-room shack
fanning her face, creased as dried mud.

Further on, a khaki-covered white man
sits atop a horse − rifle in hand.
Bound ankles shuffle, chains clink a dusty song
and twenty sweat-soaked black backs
bend, digging a ditch already dug. Across the field
a bright Georgia road sign promises
Peaches Grits Biscuits Just Ahead

Colored White Only
I am six − sunburned pink
I follow the arrow for Colored

NOTE: “Southern Bound White Girl” will be published later in 2015 in Squaw Valley Review.

PHOTOGRAPH:  The author, Merna Louise, 6, and sister Gloria Jean, 13, at their local Woolworth’s  photo booth in Lansing Michigan, during the summer of 1956.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem, which will be published in the Squaw Valley Review later this year, began as a haiku – a contemplation of my first encounter with racism. On a family car trip from Michigan to Florida in 1957, (prior to interstate highways), we passed scenes and read signs that conflicted with my sense of the world. Hard as it is to imagine now, at that time I attended an integrated school in Lansing. I couldn’t process the poverty of naked children playing in dirt or the cruelty of chain gangs we passed along those country roads. When my mother grabbed me away from the “Colored” bathroom entrance, I felt, for the first time, the power of the written word.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Merna Dyer Skinner writes poetry and personal essays when she is not working as a communications consultant, helping people overcome their fear of public speaking. Her business articles have appeared in national publications and her poetry in MiOPeasias, Star 82 Review, Mojave River Review and, later this year, in the Squaw Valley Review. She is an alumna of the Squaw Valley Writers Community and Tupelo Press Truchas Poetry Workshop. She lives in Venice, California, with her sixth rescue dog, Sophie. Visit her at