Gracie’s mother was a “satwantee,”
a woman who was meant to bear seven children.
Her oldest child stuttered so hard
he stopped talking.
Her second child, her first daughter,
was the rag she wiped the floor with,
the daughter who came home
after her husband died
in a mysterious boat accident,
and cared for her mother
until her miserable end.
It is always their first child
that the parents cut their child-rearing teeth on.
Gracie’s mother saved me from a rabid father—
abetted by a bed-ridden mother–
wielding a solloloy belt,
and stringing mind-numbing words
that should not have found themselves next to each other,
words that fragmented sound,
threatening to alter us kids, like pigs!
The only sounds that escaped over the hibicus hedge
were water falling on dishes being washed
by long-haired maidens,
Indian songs on their radio,
and the humming of the ruby throats in the red flowers,
the hedge that encircled their yard
and edged the bandan in back,
where it wouldn’t take hold, except
in runty patches,
no matter how many re-plantings.
The old envy I harbored for this family
of such good and obedient children
choked tears out of the memories
standing in front of me.