Little Barefoot Soul

Nikki Wallschlaeger

She hates shoes & socks
feels it’s an injustice
her white cousins play

outside with t-shirts
gone & she cannot,
but backyard grass

is candy to her feet,
better than everything
she owned & arose,

damp from welcome
(but who really knows
what grass is doing)

the hot sun makes life
practical for little Black
girls who, instinctively,

correspond in saplings
whenever they leap up
it’s a new communion

they look at her once
then twice, wondering
what she’s doing there,

all by herself, holding
onto some old secret
her family can’t get to,

a book in her mouth
per usual, little voice
speaking, at tomorrow

Wallschlaeger, Nikki_headshot

Nikki Wallschlaeger’s work has been featured in The Nation, Brick, American Poetry Review, Witness, Kenyon Review, POETRY, and others. She is the author of the full-length collections Houses (Horseless Press 2015) and Crawlspace (Bloof 2017) as well as the graphic book I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel (2019) from Bloof Books. She is also the author of an artist book called “Operation USA” through the Baltimore based book arts group Container, a project acquired by Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee. Her third collection, Waterbaby, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2021.