Home Literary Arts Two Poems by Bernardine (Dine) Watson

Two Poems by Bernardine (Dine) Watson

Two Poems by Bernardine (Dine) Watson

Leaving On the No. 2 Bus:  September 1963

I am standing on the corner of Christian at 16th street

watching and waiting for the No. 2 bus

to take me uptown where I need to go.

Walked pass Miss Lee’s house

down to Tommy’s Barbershop

turned left onto Christian

by the 7th Day Adventists’  

walked up to 16th street

straight and tall like I’ve been told

now I’m waiting on the corner

 for the No. 2 bus.

Miss Lee was sitting in the window

when I passed her house this morning

pretending to read the daily newspaper.

Miss Lee is always pretending

 to read the daily paper

while she watches the block

for the coming and the going.

A dog was barking in the alley.

A dog is always barking in the alley.

Down at Tommy’s Barbershop

the men are gathered on the doorstep

just like they gather every morning

seems like they have no place to go.

They call to me by my family name

since they’ve known me from a little girl.

Some say the men are trifling,

but some say my family’s “striving”

so I pay what some say no mind at all. 

Walking to the bus stop

I carry the briefcase Daddy bought me

a big leather Samsonite

like one he always longed to carry

he says I will grow into it.

Mommy washed and pressed

my hair last night 

and curled it into a page-boy style

using strips cut from a brown paper bag

black magic passed down

from generation to generation.

Mommy tells me that I’m beautiful,

and just as smart as the white kids

who already go to the uptown school,

that should be all that matters, she says.

I hope that she is right.

Now I’m standing on the corner

of Christian at 16th street

watching and waiting for the No.2 bus

to take me uptown where I need to go.

I’m only two blocks from home

but already I am lost, and wondering

how long it will take me

to grow into this briefcase. 

The Scalding

Even then, as now


running towards affection, with

 no regard for blistering waters

no regard for consequences

of burning love.


 always across the room 

always too far away

even now, as then

busy with the this and that

of life

the women’s work of

 babies, and

baths, and

 water carried hot

across a room

 from stove

 to pot

to tub.

Who can even know

 what happened next,

though lore’s been passed

 from kin to kin

even then, as now.


they say, a horror of skin

 falling free from baby bone


 stunned first

 into hollow silence

before the howls toward heaven.

Oh, what is pain but love

 and love but pain.

Prior to taking a serious interest in poetry, Bernardine (Dine) Watson worked as a social policy writer for major foundations, nonprofits, and media organizations. She has written for The Washington Post, The Ford Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Stoneleigh Foundation. Dine’s poetry has been published in the Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Indian River Review,by Darkhouse Books, and by the Painted Bride Art Center.  She was a member of 2015-16 class of The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ the Poet in Progress Program, and the 2017 and 2018 classes of the Hurston Wright Foundation’s Summer Writers Week. Dine serves on DC’s Ward 4 Arts and Humanities Committee and on the selection committee for the Takoma Park Third Thursday poetry reading series. She’s read her poetry in venues throughout the DC metropolitan area with More Than A Drum Percussion Ensemble. Dine sits on the board of Day Eight Arts.  Her book, Transplant: A Memoir, won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House 2023 nonfiction prize and will be published in October 2023.

Image: Bus shelter and bus stop, Cardiff Road, Newport by Jaggery, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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