Daria is grown now, over 30. Last I heard
she moved from Nashville to Atlanta
be an EMT. In my 7th grade classroom
I remember her asking to speak
to me privately. We huddled side-by-side,

legs crossed on the hallway floor, our backs
brushing against the sharp poking
vents of the army green lockers. The n-word,
 I hear it every day, she whispers. Sometimes
 from my brothers and it’s just silly
street talk, but at the Circle-K store
 it’s dirty. How did this word
 get started Miss Bryant? How? I think
of possible explanations but they curl

like cicada shells in my throat
before they can form words
in a disciplined teacherly
voice. Today I am Daria’s friend
who doesn’t know the right answer,
what to say or do. Let’s research
 this together, I offer.

I don’t remember the answers
we uncovered, they were academic
and incomplete, but I do recall
Daria taking a detour and digging
up a wealth of black
reference points — enough people,
flowers, animals, places, events,
fruits and vegetables to fill a scrapbook
of ovation. Obsidian

mines of Wildhorse Canyon. Black
Sapote with fruit like chocolate
pudding and Arkansas Black,
a fine but underrated dessert
apple. Her favorite Black
Iris was named One Step Beyond. Most

excited about discovering high jumping
Alice Coachman, the first
black woman to earn Olympic
gold and who ran shoeless along dirt
roads to learn her sport, Daria wrote
a three-page report I didn’t
ask for. She added a hand-drawn
portrait in charcoal with five-point
stars orbiting Alice’s tough feet.