Barbara Presnell


Sharon, who keeps toddlers in her home in America,
discovers the eggs on children's heads
after finding them on her own. While the rest of us
haul supplies to San Pablo, she stays back
to wash them with Rid from the mercado.
Lice, she tells us later, circle
down the sinks like black sand.

She instructs the older girls
to strip children's sheets and boil them
in large pots in the orphanage kitchen,
but China alone changes the baby's bed
then quits. What's the point?
One or two days without scratching
and they will all come back.

If this is the way it is, Sharon says,
if Elida can't keep her children clean,
fresh linens for sleeping now and then,
the government should shut her down.
I don't care how she feels about politicians
or Jesus or Catholics with too
much money for themselves.

© 2002 Barbara Presnell

Author Biography

Barbara Presnell's career as a writer and teacher of writing has spanned two decades. During that time, she has published two award-winning chapbooks, Snake Dreams (Nightshade Press, 1994) and Unravelings (Longleaf Press, 1998). Her poetry and prose have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Southern Review, The Laurel Review, Cimarron Review, and Claiming the Spirit, Within: A Sourcebook of Women's Poetry (Beacon Press, 1996). She received a 2001-02 North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship for writing and a 1992 Kentucky Arts Council award for poetry. Her weekly column runs in The Dispatch (Lexington, NC) and is distributed by the New York Times Regional News Group. She lives in Lexington with her husband, journalist Bill Keesler, and son, Will.

©2009 Longleaf Press at Methodist University | Fayetteville, NC