Civil Defense

© 2016 Katherine Williams
"Civil Defense" appears in
Mrs. Nelson’s Class
World Enough Writers (2017)
Marilyn Nelson, Ed.

Today we watched that turtle movie again.
The monkey in the tree has a stick of dynamite.
He blows everything up except for the turtle.
I think he might be a Communist.
Daddy got his orders. We’re going to Okinawa.
And every turtle is very alert....
Are there Communists in Okinawa, Dad?

My mama never gets mad. We cry when she
makes us go cut a hickory. But she doesn’t use it.
When Jenny’s mom gets mad she hits them.
We are sweet girls except for when we fight.
Except for the time Billy came over to play.
He did what we all must learn to do
I called him a hunk of crap.
I don’t even know why I said it. It just came out.
Is the A-bomb only a story, Dad?
Then Billy took my pink Polly Crockett hat.
I chased him all the way to his house.
He lives where the unlisted people live.
Billy’s daddy said to give her back her hat.
When danger threatens them they never get hurt

Dad, no fair, she called me a nasty name.
She has to say she’s sorry first.
His daddy went quiet. He said, Just give it back.
I think it’s because they’re unlisted.
Jenny said that’s why I can’t be friends with Claudia.
And now his little friends are just like Bert

I want to tell Billy I’m sorry, but I’m ashamed.
He sits right by me in Mrs. Nelson’s class
but I don’t look at him.