Break-time. The English sip milk through a straw, crunch crisps.
I am the foreign kid, cornered by Miss Blowers, stick the tip
between your teeth. The them there this. The they them, like this.
Her tongue protrudes from her mouth like a sliver of salami. De dem dare dis. De dey dem, like dis, I repeat.
Miss Blowers holds Noddy and the Magic Rubber. Her sharp
fingernails tap the cover; rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat. Thwack.
I am crowned with Noddy. I detonate with pain and shame. The they them there this. The they them! roars Miss Blowers.
My tongue strikes, three thunderous thumps, thanks.
Back home Mama prepares borscht, slicing beetroots, carrots,
Chop, chop, chop into small. Her knife slides through red
flesh with no resistance, taps as it hits the chopping board. Don’t like bosh, says I. Not de bosh, but de borscht! says Mama. Not de borscht but the borscht and out comes my tongue.
Our new English teacher wore corduroy and a Polio limp.
His hair curled over his shirt collar. His flares hung loose
on his wasted shin, inciting an uneasy silence. He was unlike
the others. I forget his name as he didn’t last.
Our first English lesson was unlike the others.
Our pubescent class took turns reading aloud
a poem by Toge Sankichi, a survivor
of Hiroshima. Can we forget that flash?
We learned about the four minute warning.
We heard an air raid siren, oscillating ice
through our veins. Seek cover immediately.
We were told to write how we would spend
our last four minutes. This is not a test. I descended stone stairs
to a cold, dark place.