Kathleen Hellen

I had to take three steps for every one of theirs,
ducking under elbows, into rooms with yellow pencils.
Sister Theresa Martin gave us cardboard letters.
Bug, dug, fun. Gud, duf, bun. The “u” a strange
umbrella, collapsing. It rained all day.
“Only boys wear brown,” the girl in ribbons said,
my boots under the desk. My boots inside a box
that was the first September. “See?” Okaasan said,
as if unwrapping fish, “These are not the geta. You can take big steps.”

Words like children skipped across the desk—
through forests great as Gretel’s,
through cats-and-dogs, translations,
The Sister gave us milk Okaasan hates.
Run run run! said vowels from Dick and Jane.