Her name was as strange as my new life,
moved from a clear, blue Minneapolis cul-de-sac
to Ozark air that buzzed thick with bugs.
The walk to her trailer from my parents’
mid-life crisis country store
was up the weedy edge of a hot
Nearly every place we passed
she extended a freckled arm.
Some cousins in that one,
her step-dad’s grandmother there.
That summer before our fifth-grade year,
while her mother worked at the store,
we drank Mr. Pibb and played foosball,
and she assured me It don’t matter
when I asked about school.
She called us best friends
by the time we started.
Chose me as her partner every chance.
Insisted that “Osage Indians” was the
answer on a shared sheet we filled out,
even though I knew it didn’t fit the question.
Trust me, her green eyes serious,
I’ve lived here my whole life.
Eventually there were more newcomers,
their parents from St. Louis
to run a boat dock.
Chicago to open a restaurant.
Their answers matched mine.
They planned to go to college.
So I never asked Avonda
whether her name maybe
came from someplace beautiful.
From across a sea,
where long ago someone spotted
tiny flowers fighting to the surface
on a battered cliff.