Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Poem: I Was the Girl Who Never Spoke
I Was the Girl Who Never Spoke
I was the girl who never spoke, the shy girl,
my head perpetually bent, my eyes averted. The other night
at the bookstore I see the new Dick and Jane books
on a display shelf, I immediately remember how much
I wanted to be a part of that Dick and Jane world,
the big white house, the huge lawn, the upper middle
class father with his cardigan and pipe. In first grade,
I loved to look at the pictures in those readers,
the books offering me a window into a world
so different from my own Italian neighborhood,
the streets of Riverside lined with two or three family
shingled houses, statues of the Virgin Mary in a grotto
in the front yards of the newer hilltop houses, no front
yard at all in the ones like ours, roses climbing trellises,
vegetable gardens crammed full of corn and tomatoes,
zucchini and peppers, fig trees, grape vines.
In first grade I didn’t know that the distance
between Jane’s big white colonial and our apartment
could be traced in more than miles.
I was the girl who never spoke, afraid
I’d speak in Italian instead of English,
afraid, as I am sometimes even today,
that some expression common to Riverside
or some way of pronouncing a word will let everyone know
where I come from
where I belong
where I can never go.
by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, from Ancestors' Song
Maria Mazziotti Gillan's most recent books are the poetry and photography collection, Paterson Light and Shadow and the poetry collection, What Blooms in Winter . Her collection of poems along with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets . Maria's official website is MariaGillan.com.