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January 2012

2012 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards

Poetry: High School

Honorable Mention

My Brothers
Madeline Smith
9th grade, Pittsburgh CAPA


The big coffee-colored hands
of my brother ruffled my
dark brown hair, pulled back
into a knot of a ponytail, the
best a girl of six could do. I
smiled up at them, jumping as the
chain net rattled when the ball
smacked the faded backboard.

My blue basketball shorts
matched Carl’s and swished
around my legs as I dodged Flay
dribbling a basketball out of
his reach. They let me win.
I patted their warm backs,
not noticing how my hand
seemed to appear whiter than
a seashell tossed about rough
waves, sanded down and drained
of color, against their
cocoa skin.

Gilbert grinned, his teeth
white as snow against his
mocha skin. I leaned
against the stone wall with
blue paint peeling, and I
screamed his name. Sweat
dripped from his face,
soaking his shirt and he was
gasping for breath. My brothers
played hard.

We ate greens and
fried chicken; they let
the grease stain my white
T-shirt that hung down to
my knees. We laughed and
talked loud, smashed next
to each other on an old sagging
couch like mashed potatoes,
as the football game played
like thunder into the night. Hot
Cheetos were dipped in
ranch along with pizza as
fries found hot sauce,
again and again.

Duct tape held
our sneakers together
that were piled at the
door and tripped on every
time someone entered.
No one moved them,
it wasn’t something to
get rid of, but something to
add to.

As my Dad added to the
pile of shoes, someone
laughed, “Pastor Matt,
you the blackest white
man.” He laughed and
slapped skin with
them all. It was said in love,
that I knew. But what
did it mean?

I am white.
My brothers are black.

View the complete list of the 2012 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Award winners.

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