Asylum for Girls, 1925

In parts of the Jim Crow South, institutions for delinquent girls were integrated.

by Angela Apte

The new girl, songless
wears your smockbreaks dirt, cuts roots
red soil dusting dark ankles
catching sweat.

Under tinny sky,
I drag the hoe
writing a letter in the runnels—

Who picks your nits
parts lips? There is no poultice
for these nights.

Matron says,

You are coming back!

The master’s wife has complained:

Too many dishes broken
Too much noise in the quarters

Don’t worry. The baby will fit in the potato basket.
We’ll stitch a cover so her skin doesn’t burn,
say she takes after me.


asylum-for-girls-1925_angela-apte_lgeAngela Apte received an MFA in Poetry from Virginia Commonwealth University and is the 2012 winner of the Academy of American Poets’ Catherine and Joan Byrne Poetry Prize. She currently lives and teaches in Houston, Texas.

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