My first day at school in New York
the children in my first-grade class laugh
when I say that I used to live near
I do not know
that in this strange state
“worsh” is pronounced “wash"
just like the word we
use for laundry
In second grade
I ask my mom What’s a faggot?
I don’t know, she says. Where did you hear it?
I say, A boy yelled it at another boy
On the playground
We look it up in the dictionary
On my dad’s desk
A bundle of sticks, we read
Not everything is found in books
so we go to the yellow wall phone
with it's long, dangly cord to
dial my Mom’s best friend.
She has been to college.
I watch my mom's face as she holds
the phone to her ear and
Oh, she says
She hangs up and tells me that
it is not a nice word.
An education, this word-defining
An education these other words, like
Which my mom’s friend teaches me
Is definitely a word
I should ever say.
© 2016 Kat Shamash (April 17, 2016)