In 4th grade,
hungry for praise of any kind,
I volunteered to memorize
the preamble to the constitution
practicing over and over
until I could recite the whole thing
without once looking at the words
scribbled on my hand.

My teacher sent me to another class
to show off how her teaching skills
made me good at memorizing.

One deep breath, then
I recited each word, smooth and clear,
pausing to make sure I didn’t trip over
“domestic tranquility” or “posterity”

Finished, the class clapped
then the teacher asked my name,
smiling when I told her,
smiling the kind of smile you smile
when something makes you feel good inside.

Any relation to Tommy Webb?

My heart pounded
when the name we never spoke at home
was blurted out in a room full of people.
My father’s name.
The father I didn’t know.
The father I felt sure
held the very answer to who I was
or who I was supposed to be.

But I was good at more than memorizing.

Trained for years to pretend
there was no such person as Tommy Webb
and if there was,
he had no hold on me,
I shook my head and said,

No. No relation at all.

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown 2010
All Rights Reserved