You never understood the classroom. One of your earliest school memories:
the terrible cry of the robin sounding over the words of your teacher,
a woman (ms curtain) who was telling you how to cross the street.
She shut the glass window. It slid closed over the bloody springtime.
You never understood how to cross the street, not to this day.
It is a chaos of color and signal, badge and signifigance.
Crossing guards? Stoplights? Oh, the hulking iron of automobiles,
they sometimes ignore the law if they see no one on the road --
and a child is so small.
You learned that roads are governed by laws binding us from murder.
You learned that often people ignore these laws and that windows close
on the deathcries of robins.
You never understood how to study. You were reading of classical mythology.
The word "rape" occured over and over, gods raping goddesses and human maids,
heroes raping nature spirits and animals.
It seemed essential to your understanding of classical mythology to
comprehend this word, rape. You asked your teacher. She wouldn't tell you
and advised you to do a report on it. A report? Study, she clarified.
Study and write what you discover.
You asked your parents, what is rape? They said nothing. Your father knew
more than your mother, actually. He said nothing of it to you but he
showed you to a dictionary.
Alone with the dictionary, you discovered.
1rape \r-ap\ n [ME, fr, L rapa, rapum turnip, rape; akin to OHG r-aba turnip,
rape]: a European herb (brassica napus) of the mustard family grown as a
forage crop for sheep and hogs and for its seeds which yield rape oil
and are a bird food. (Webster's New Collegiate, 1974)
Robins, you reasoned, may then devour the seed of rape and die. The last
word, bird food, meant something. The word, family, it also meant something.
The other words, the other symbols, those just confused you.
You returned to school and told the teacher. You spoke to her before class,
mumbling about rape and families and the seed of murder. You were confused.
You were looking at the knots of your shoelaces, knots you could never weave.
You said something about rape and families and the seed of murder.
Ms Curtain kneeled before your tiny body. She kneeled before you, holding
your face between her large hands. You saw her wet face, she was crying.
She embraced you. Frightened, you did nothing; and she did nothing about
what you'd said. She never mentioned reports after.
After, it was too late.