Shaggy Baby
by Susan Beall Summers



Shaggy Baby went everywhere with me when
“I got you Babe” spent three weeks as a number one hit.
Barbie and little sister Skipper
had fashion sets in stores.
My sister was a princess at half-time
with her sequin outfit,
short white boots with big fringe tassels,
and her brilliant baton.
Shaggy Baby didn’t have any clothes.

My sister and brother worked the fields that summer
and her beauty pageant hands were a horror
of cuts and calluses stained yellow and brown from cropping tobacco.
The horror of the Vietnam war was broadcast on TV.
35,000 anti-war protestors marched on Washington
and 600 civil rights marchers were attacked on
Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

My brother and sister marched
in the high school band,
the Jeff Davis County Yellow Jackets,
and our father was country school superintendent.
He said, “We will follow the law and integrate the schools.”
My soft-bodied doll had matted blonde dreadlocks
and plastic arms and legs.
Her eyes opened and shut.
Homer Wilcox attacked our father,
tried to slit his throat, but only cut his face.

The Voting Rights Act was signed into law.
President Johnson used the anthem of the civil rights movement,
“We shall overcome,”
in a speech to congress.
Edmond Pettus was a Confederate General,
Ku Klux Klan leader and US Senator.

Dad’s black stitches were frightening,
yet he never pressed charges.
Vickie Culbert ripped Shaggy Baby.
I quietly watched as Mom carefully stitched her up,
and I never played with her again.
Martin Luther King, Jr. led twenty five hundred marchers
across that bridge,
knelt, said a prayer & turned back.





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