April 9th – a Beloit prose poem

a revision, because the first ending was far too simple.

On the 4th day of Bio 101,
Elliott batTzedek

sitting in a hall with more students than my entire high school the professor read to us from a medical journal update about the first person to have died of tetanus in the U.S. in many years. “She was poor, rural,” he said, then read from an article about it, “she’d stepped on a fishing hook in her back yard and when her leg became infected and swollen she had not sought medical attention. Neighbors and friends reported that she felt that her foot was a long way from her heart and that Jesus would save her.”

Laughter from all around the hall.

4th day lesson object attained – the triumph of scientific, logical reason over ignorance and out dated belief systems.

Her name was Hazel Miner. She was 48. She left behind her husband Harold and her son Eugene who loved her. Her backyard had tools and fishing gear and hunting gear scattered everywhere, for they were a busy, self-sufficient family. Her house was small, but the kitchen door was always open for neighbors to sit and have Sanka. On the floor between the small living room and kitchen was a Charlie The Tuna rug which I had loved to play on when my mom brought me three houses down the block to visit.

She belonged to my Grandma Dorothy’s church.

I didn’t go to her funeral last week because I was here, in Chamberlin, in Bio 101, in my semi-elite private liberal arts college.

8th day lesson object attained—I was smart enough to get in, but I could only belong here if I became ashamed of who I’d been. Which was easy—I hated that church with all its bigotry and hatred of others, I hated the racism, the fear of anyone or anything different that defined that little town, I hated that no one there seemed to care about Bigger Things, I was learning that I ought to hate the food, the music, and those short nasal vowels that hang there for second and second in the middle of a word.

I needed to belong here. I did not yet get that my being ashamed of them did not mean these new peers would ever see me as one of us.


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