When the neighbors burned a cross
in our yard, it was for practice.
They'd never done it before.
They wanted to get it right.
It was not much taller
than a first grader
covered in gas and burlap.
They sat around it in lawn chairs,
drinking beer. I didn’t know why,
but I was ashamed.
Most of our acre was hidden
from the road by our house's
dirt floor and tarpaper.
A good place for secrets.
They asked permission of my father
he said it would be fine.
One more thing not to tell at school.
Kids raising hell. Just practicing.
A week later, when they burned a cross
in the front yard of the only black person
in our neighborhood,
(the adopted girl from six houses down
who shared my bus stop)
There were no lawnchairs
That is when they they were serious
That is when they meant every word
of what they did not say.