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Tuesday, October 07, 2003

The speech that I must learn

"What do you remember first?"

I remember that my mother sought a place at camp for me.

I was slow to mimic the ways of boys and men.

In the boys’ cabins and in the men’s lodge, inflicting pain was virtue.

The voices of men frightened me.

They woofed at one another, hnghh-hnghh-hrunnnnnhh-hrgnh.

They devised elaborate ruses to detect, to punish weakness, if found among them; this was called joking, joshing.

When I was an infant, I was her burden of pretty; women would stop her on sidewalks to say, oh! what a beautiful girl!

Oh! “Oh! To this day, huffing, she quotes and disputes with them.

He is not! He’s a boy! How could they think that? the very idea!

And so she sought a place of safety within the camp; I was to sleep, a six-year’s child, among women, on a trundle-bed.

I lay in lantern-light, bundled, intently, watching the beautiful hands fold towels.

They spoke softly among themselves,

ullulu-ulullulu-ulu, ullulu-ulullulu-ulu.

Yes, this was the speech that I must learn.

-- risa b


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