July 1961: I was 17
by Sarah Russell

      “There are years that ask questions
       And years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston

The same week I waved
from a float in a parade,
smiled in a swimsuit
and high heels, won
a scholarship
but not the crown,
my father died
and I sang
at his funeral.

My mother didn’t cry
until we cleaned out
his closet.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The last picture taken of my dad with me after the local pageant.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My dad, who had been convalesced with heart trouble for several years, said he wanted to live to see me graduate from high school. He came to every event of my senior year, even the prom. In June I graduated and won the local Miss Muskegon pageant. A month later I entered the Miss Michigan pageant. This poem tells of that week.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Russell has returned to poetry after a career teaching, writing and editing academic prose. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Kentucky Review, Red River Review, Misfit Magazine, Ekphrastic Review and Silver Birch Press, among others. She was a featured poet on The Houseboat and Days of Stone. More poetry at