“Train-Track Hopscotch”

Your hair is clay,
mine is water, and as we smile
into the camera,
cotton flowers—all gray—
Drape still behind us.
Now, there is no color—
only black and white—
so, after the flash,
we play.  You bring
the bottle Caps (Nu-Grape and Dr. Nutt),
and I pull teacher’s chalk
from my gingham pocket.
The sun sets on your side
of the track
that leads somewhere, like the tear
that will happen
across our paper faces.
Hush now,
Mother said
we couldn’t float bag-boats
down the creek.
Hush now,
hear the train whistle
warning us home.



Nothing comes between
us but the moon
painted silver
beneath a stippled bough.

Dear, that moon
is full, and when our little heads
tilt on the axis of tomorrow,
its light will open–like a pearled

locket—and spill out
our starlit lullabies,
our Luna in a canning jar,
so many shared biscuits.

Alabama Chanin has invited a number of different artists, writers, musicians, chefs, and creative types to offer up their own interpretation of the Massengill photographs in a series of posts for the Journal, in collaboration with Maxine Payne and contributor Phillip March Jones. The posts will appear over the next few months and give voice to the images of the often anonymous figures that appear in the photographs. For this particular entry, we invited Blair Hobbs to write about two of the images, both of young children, posing before hand-painted backgrounds that hung in the Massengill’s mobile photo trailer.

Blair Hobbs is a writer, poet, and artist based in Oxford, Mississippi. She teaches poetry at the University of Mississippi and her work has been published in a variety of magazines and journals, including The Georgia Review and Oxford American.

For more information about the Massengill photographs, click here.

–Contributed by Phillip March Jones. Photos courtesy of Maxine Payne.


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