I never owned a Barbie doll.
There were no sleepovers, hide and seek,
or shopping sprees with friends. I was a secret,
folded and hidden from the sun. Me and my piano,
always. Juxtaposed against antique mahogany chairs
and couches covered in plastic. Paisley wall paper
stared at me hour after hour. Outside was a dream.
I learned early the word investment really meant
sacrifice. Laughter was delayed until it disappeared
like cigarette smoke in a vacant room.
Thought I would be the first African American
classical pianist to play Carnegie Hall.
That was the first lie. They only wanted me to play
on cue so they could dance. I wanted to show off
my investment, my virtuosity of Bach and
Rachmaninoff. When performance becomes its
own celebrity, you either hitch a ride, or remain
an enigma. I don’t remember when the
first tear came, but I tried to hold the seam.
I wore makeup, became a mother, got married.
Then the Civil Rights Movement exploded
in the middle of my life, like a land mine.
Made me sing past pain, remove plastic
and create chords out of improvisation.
— Barbara Evans
Barbara Evans holds an MA in teaching from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a former Pittsburgh Public Schools English teacher and is a member of the Madwomen in the Attic workshops. She is published in Caribbean Writer, and her first chapbook, Muscle Memory, is forthcoming. She is a college administrator who lives in Monroeville. Many writers featured in Chapter & Verse are guests of Prosody, produced by Jan Beatty. Prosody airs every Saturday morning on WESA 90.5 FM