June 29

My mother has two infant pictures of me.
She tells me I didn’t smile much
but that I had bright eyes and strong fingers.

I remember that first picture.
The one where I sat
on my own, outside, for the first time.
Rough hand woven wool rug
beneath me and the grass surrounding.

But at college, my roommate informed me
that infants never remember.
They are incapable of processing images,
that long term memory lies dormant.
Then, my first would happen as follows:

When I am four,
at school for the first of many first days,
we are all brown, and anxious and excited.

Or so I seemed to think.
True, I was nervous
and true, I was excited.
But I wasn’t brown.

Not in the way they wanted me to be.
Not in the prided native way.
Pure, lean and rugged:
persons with blood deep in the stones
that survived the fires and the sickness.

I was tainted.
Brown by father
but white by my mother,
whose people brought
fire and brimstone,
beer and broken homes.
Snakes with white hot venom.

So, now I close my eyes
and choose to remember:

The rug beneath my thighs
the sun though the trees,
the air as clear as spring rain;
the joy of sitting alone,
strong enough for the first time.

And the flash of a camera,
and the open happy faces of my parents
because I’d smiled for the first time.


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