Ellen Wright




A Thank-You Note to Philip and Walton for the Gift of Speech

Through the window curse-words wither   
my geraniums. The kids shooting hoops
next door at P.S. 8 could be you guys bellowing
shutup asswipe or up yours moron  
as we rattled to and from second grade
past the tight-lipped houses and disapproving
hedges of Pilgrim Road.  Remember I was
new that year? Think back to our class photo.  
One of you pale and chubby.  The other
dark and wiry. Me front and center among
sophisticated little tykes in princess coats  
and staring like some infant hermit sprung
from a century in the Himalayas only to be stuffed
into a boiled-wool snowsuit.  
                                                          Thanks to you
I learned the names of things.  Tardy for instance.  
And its consequences the office.  How your
bluster could transform its disgrace into a twitch
at the corners of Mr. Doran’s mouth while at home
my hollered fuck you reduced the no-nonsense
set of my mother’s jaw to several seconds
of quivering lower lip and my father roaring
                      Relief from gas in the lower gut
became a fart.  Our hideout in the woods was
a fort where a rumble at the bottom of my larynx
could launch a guided missile.   And where (I was
never sure how) whichever of you annoyed the other
turned into a fairy.  I swear I’m alive today because
of the menacing way you taught me to say I’ve got a fist  
and I know how to use it.  

                                                  So I have forgiven you for
the finger you shot me all the way across the first day
of third grade.  For an assault on my feelings
that taught me one more way to stake out a boundary.


First published in The Vermont Literary Review.


Photo by Robin Locke MondaEllen Wright's chapbook, In Transit, was published in 2007 by Main Street Rag Publishing Company. Her poetry has recently appeared in new ohio review, RHINO, and The Broad River Review.  The recipient of a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from New York University, she makes her home in Brooklyn and her living as a musician.