Meredith, we apologise.
We were not ourselves
And you were so weak,
You picky-headed dreamer
Outsider from Ghana
With the dark-skin grandma
You, girl with nothing
Who always lost everything.
We regret that we hated the poor;
That we hated our free school meals,
Our second-hand jumpers,
that we had nothing
To show but ourselves.
We regret that we brought
You to your knees
In sight of the sandalled priest
Who watched through the
Coloured windows of the chapel
As we gave you a playground lesson:
Those who have nothing, are nothing.
We realise that there are no eyes
That will look through you as plainly
As a child’s. We were children
And that was our girlhood:
The hitting back, the fights,
The hatred of fat dinner ladies,
Our arms around each other in
In those glorious minutes of playtime –
Our noses streaming, our tights torn,
Raucous and aware that you were watching
And if you were watching
We were not you.
Remember the rhythm?
Remember the skipping?
Remember stopping after school
For ice poles that turned the tongue blue?
Remember the fights?
Remember when we nicknamed you slave?
Remember when we nicknamed you object?
Remember when we tore up that book and blamed you?
Remember when we stole your gold pens?
Remember when we refused your Christmas cards?
Remember when we said your grandma beat you?
We were expectant teenagers
Watching you from across the road,
Hoping to be nothing like you,
Afraid that others could smell between our legs,
That our hair was too short
And our parents too poor.
by Jay Bernard
from Poetry International Web, 2011