The teacher says it’s a good thing. My twang is a target,
so at first I agree. Even after they push lunch trays for me
to take away, and order I not speak without permission,
call me a redneck that time I cried y’all after them at recess.
It’s too cold here. My parents have to take me to buy clothes
I’d never heard of—snow pants and thermal underwear.
It’s too cold here to feel like myself. Not until the sun comes
do I realize how much I’ve missed my clothes—thin, simple layers.
My overalls. I love how they never slip down my scrawny hips,
so today I strut the hallways. Kids pass by pointing and belly laughing.
On the bus home, my buddies say it’s because only hicks wear overalls.
I’m an embarrassment, they say. I’d like to say I made them lick dirt,
but it’s third grade, and I’m still unravelling the truth that belonging
means offering up pieces of yourself like sacrifice. I’m the new girl
who talks funny, who doesn’t know cursive or the times table,
who needs the teacher’s help to put on her snow pants. At home,
I rip the overalls off like fire, throw them in the trashcan. It doesn’t
seem like enough distance between us, so I pour a can of Pearly Pink paint,
leftovers from my new room, and watch it gloss the overalls like a frosting.
I wait for relief, or regret—whichever will come first.