Lynne Thompson, “Blood on the Wall”

Lynne Thompson is the author of Start With a Small Guitar and Beg No Pardon, winner of the Perugia Book Award and the Great Lakes Colleges New Writers Award. Jane Hirshfield selected her manuscript Fretwork for the 2018 Marsh Hawk Poetry Prize. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Pleiades, American Poetry Journal, and 2020’s Best American Poetry.

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Blood on the Wall

You’re always walking to school, Ruby Bridges,
wearing a dress and short socks so white
agains the black blackness of your face and legs,
against the cardinality of the blood on the wall,

and on that wall, you see the scrawl, Ruby Bridges,
of that word—nigger—and doesn’t 21st century
America see a wall painted with scars just as ugly,
see a wall some faux leader has promised to build?

Where do you walk now, decades on, Ruby Bridges,
when thousands of lives have been lost—to what?
Is that your pitch-dark beauty walking toward us
or are you the old woman, resigned, walking away?


This poem was inspired by Norman Rockwell’s painting, The Problem We All Live With.




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