Summers in Atlanta, I almost never wore shoes. I’d go barefoot through the woods or pick my way down the rocky drive to the smooth asphalt on our street named for a poet—Sidney Lanier who praised the rivers coming down from the rocky crags in the mountains northeast of us—and I liked how tough my soles became by early September. Mornings when I was twelve, I’d wake and first thing slip into the canvas shoes beside my bed, one of which one night served as a nursery to a mother wolf spider and her babies that my foot dislodged, a screaming discovery, the swarm of hundreds of tiny black arachnids flowing up the bedspread, my father racing in with toxic spray, which delayed, briefly, that summer’s daily routine: to walk down Lanier Drive to Peachtree Street and take a bus to the Atlanta Art Institute and climb the outside staircase up to the second floor studio schoolroom and there begin my becoming. Linoleum prints, abstract paintings, and best of all, blind contour drawings. And Anne would be there. Anne Elizabeth. I believe she was my first love. Oh, we were giddy for boys and passionately dissected every flirt and glance that came our way, but we were one soul, one spirit, as only girl best friends can be. We did everything together, exploring the overgrown antebellum gardens in the woods behind my house, tiptoeing across the top of Lake Phoebe’s twenty-foot-high dam where one February, in the stream below, we plunged our hands wrist deep into the tannic water in search of salamanders hibernating under layers of leaves. We would later chop off their tails, put the pieces of them in small blocks of wax to slice and then make slides of the slices to photograph because, well, regeneration was supposed to happen, and we called it science, and what did it matter if ants, attracted by a cow’s heart in the science fair exhibit next to ours, got in and stung the salamanders to death. We had our photos of the slides, all mounted on poster boards. Oglethorpe, the college where my dad taught, was our playground, which Anne and I reminisced about online a few months before she died. I’d only recently reconnected with her when there we were again—peeking into the science lab with its preserved fetuses, roaming under the bleachers of the never-to-be-finished football stadium, shrieking “behoove, behoove” hysterically as we ran through the massive, medieval-style halls—and then up on the roof of my house that last day, “every last desperate moment” she recalled, hiding there, keeping silent as we looked down the yard to Lanier Drive. Beneath us, the movers had come and gone and hollowed out the rooms until there was nothing left but floors and windows and walls. It was a precipitous hideout but a quiet one, and I would find myself on the edge of that roof in years to come, clinging to what I didn’t want to lose, oblivious to the cries and calls of my mother pacing back and forth beside the station wagon that was packed and ready to take our family over a thousand miles away. Anne and I kept quiet, hiding there, hiding and refusing to come down.

Terry Blackhawk is Founding Director of Detroit’s acclaimed poets-in-schools program InsideOut Literary Arts Project. Twice named Michigan Creative Writing Teacher of the r, Blackhawk began writing poetry while teaching high school. Among her five full-length collections are Body & Field, finalist for four first book awards; Escape Artist (2002), winner of the John Ciardi Prize; and One Less River—a Kirkus Reviews Top 2019 Indie Poetry title. Other awards are the Pablo Neruda Prize, a Kresge fellowship, grants from Michigan Council for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the 2021 Antioch College Horace Mann Award for victories for humanity.

Artwork by Barbara Gillette Price