My working, single mother paid a woman
to pick me up from school every day
along with her three daughters.
We rode four across the back seat
me in the middle without a seatbelt.
I was shy and the others’ buckles dug into me.
Allie, who was my age, didn’t talk to me
at school; she played soccer and wore
clothes with real brands on the front.
When accused of being my friend,
she ran up to me, close enough to hug
reached inside the back of my shirt
pulled out my no-name label,
showed it to the other girls
Worse than Target! They snickered.
In the car Allie’s mother asked,
Allie, what do you have for homework?
Wanting to not be this quiet burden
I told her what was on our dry-erase board:
Long division and a short story by O’Henry.
She clucked, Are you Allie?
Margaux Novak has had work in Little Patuxent Review, The Worcester Review, Sanctuary: Audubon Society Magazine, Connecticut River Review, Wraparound South, River River, Boston Poetry Magazine, Ink Seed, Satul, Clementine Unbound, and several anthologies. She is a recipient of the Guy Owen Award, Dartmouth College’s Frost Place Poetry Award, and was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize for her poem “Sea Witch,” which appeared in Little Patuxent Review. Novak earned her Master’s in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. She was raised in coastal North Carolina.