When I first learned to spell my name,
I imagined that the letters had storiesâ€”
a horseshoe on a stick made up the P,
a tent with a crossbar made up the A,
and a headless crucifix finished off the T.
U was my favourite because it had so many storiesâ€”
it was a magnet, a jump-rope, a snake,
a falling rollercoaster, a thimble, a giant toe.
Letters were made of stories,
not the other way around.
â€œSpell â€˜colorâ€™,â€ Sister Catherine asked.
The stories came quickly.â€‚â€œC-o-l-o-u-r, colour.â€
The cave of her mouth opened to say â€œnoâ€â€” a perfect O,
it reminded me of a hole, a coin, a wheel, a planet.
My mother, from Belfast, had taught me to read
the childrenâ€™s stories she knew so that I might get ahead.
Clive and Honoria explored castles and went fox-hunting.
They had tea at four, jamcakes, holidays in the Lake District.
I read book after book about them.â€‚They were my friends.
They were good students, and they knew how to spell.
â€œSpell color,â€ Sister Catherine commanded.â€‚â€œAnd this time,
spell it like an American.â€
And so, I passed her classâ€”
the blood in my brain
was purged forward.
Copyright Patrick Hicks 2008