Paprika

I am old. I have forgotten my age.
I count peppers, feel the weight
of my basket. When the sun sets,
I can make my way home
in the warm afterglow of the day.

After supper, I sink
into the tub, feel the water
loosen my muscles. Though I scrub
with goat milk, I can’t remove
the red from my palms.

In my next life, I won’t work,
my mother once promised.
I can splash my hands in the river,
shake them dry, release these stains
like birds.


Whitney D. Gray earned her MFA in poetry at UNC-Greensboro. Her work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Bluestem Magazine, Contemporary American Voices, Loose Change, and The Monarch Review. Whitney currently teaches composition at  Northern Virginia Community College.

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