The Poetic Hill

April 2018


Theresa Maxwell is a retired NASA engineer who lives on Capitol Hill with her husband. She writes that her poem below, based on her personal experiences growing up in Mississippi more than 50 years ago, was inspired by the church shooting in Charleston two years ago and by last year’s violent demonstrations in Charlottesville.

My Early Youth in 1960s Mississippi

I remember endless summer days, playing kickball with the neighbors and
cooling down with the hose when it was an oven both inside and out.

I remember being told which water fountain I had to use in the Sears Roebuck store,
and not understanding how the two identical fixtures were different.

I remember that special Christmas morning when my four brothers and I awoke
to find a Christmas star in five shiny new bicycles.

I remember fun times at a big swimming pond near the Jackson zoo, until
the city closed all its public pools to keep blacks from swimming with whites.

I remember exhilarating rides on the wheel well in my grandfather’s green pickup
and eating ice cold watermelon with salt on a sweltering afternoon.

I remember being instructed to keep far away from a third-grade classmate
whose father didn’t allow her to associate with Catholics.

I remember homemade biscuits fluffy as a cloud, sweet tea, lemon icebox pie,
and fried chicken that was heaven on a plate.

I remember my mother picking me up from kindergarten on a bright November day
and crying when a gas station attendant told her the breaking news that
someone had finally got that damn Catholic President.

I remember wondering how people could hate so much,
and whether things would be different

when I was older.


Come meet local poets at the Literary Hill BookFest, Sunday, May 6, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., at Eastern Market. Then join us across the street on Tunnicliff ‘s patio at 3 p.m. for Poets’ [email protected]’s, a reading and open-mic poetry event.


If you would like to have your poem considered for publication, please send it to [email protected] (There is no remuneration.)