The first grade blues
she shouldn't have the first grade blues.
Words like miscegenation
were not in her vocabulary or nigger lover
or peckerwood, so why all these first grade blues?

But the blues, they done trickled down her
cheek and wandered down the hall strutting on
over to the lunch room where the ladies beg
her momma, can we please braid
your child's hair, and she's got good
hair. It don't need to be in that nappy auburn afro.

The first grade blues
she shouldn't have the first grade blues.
But the tears, they keep spreading out to
the playground scattering like boys chasing the girls
around the question from: the Laree, and brown eyes.

And besides being an X child
a mark in the box child
‘cause there ain't no other box child
or high goddamn yellow box child
she's X girl and climbing trees tomboy girl
and, what the hell are you girl?

So, she got the blues
she got the first grade blues.
And now: the blue, green, and brown eyes
want to know, is you a girl is you a
boy is you a white or black or X in the box girl—boy?

She asks her momma in nineteen eighty
the same year she discovered body odor
what should I say momma? What should I be momma:
or high goddamn yellow box child
and her momma says sweetly
be what you want to be. But she's in the first grade and wonders—who would want to be me?

So the little X girl who shortens
Her name to fit in the box girl
she has the blues, she has the first grade blues.
She has the other, the high yellow, the tomboy blues.

What are you girl? The blue, green and brown eyes
asked with their daily inquisitive laugh.
I, not allowing the blues to enter in no more.
I, with a swish and a sway and hand on hip say,
if you must know I'm me—black, white, and part zucchini.

About the Poet

Elizabeth Fields is a second year MFA Creative Writing student concentrating in poetry. She is the Graduate Assistant at the Institute for African American Studies. Her writing has won several awards including a Puffin Foundation Grant and the Virginia Walters Poetry award. She is moving this fall to pursue her PhD in American Studies at St. Louis University.