Home > Words of Power > How I Would Do It

How I Would Do It

November 11, 2009

by Angela Just

on seeing my baby picture in an album

Come here and be my child. I will force-feed
you to fatness: nothing denied — and everything
that was. Cram it all down your throat.

(You will write it later, of course, my meanness
and my kindness, the teeter-totter you’ll call mother.)

How roly-poly a baby, your face buried in the cake and frosting
of nursery rhymes. Start you on Emily at six and hide
Sharon Olds under the bed for your adolescent consumption.

I will take you to the deep forest and leave you
without breadcrumbs to take communion
with weeds and berries, the sap of maple trees.
There among rooted things you will forage for the roots
of words, dark etymologies for the poems to come.

I’ll plant memory chips the size of poppy seeds
behind your ears so you can find your way back
to all you will read and touch — nothing
will escape you. In this way you will grow large.

At night your arms will accept the slow drip
of world mythology and baseball, biology
and quantum physics. Thus, time is saved for practice
of three instruments: piano, cello, and your own voice.
Especially your own voice.

And when your eyes are bulging and your ears
grow like cabbages, when your teeth are working
overtime in your full mouth and your greedy pores
binge on whatever the air brings, then we will see
what you do with this excess of flesh and blood. Choose
starvation if you will. My work is done: I leave you

with a full larder and a root cellar
that will never lack for words.

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Angela Just thinks she can do things better than most people — no, really, ask her friends and family. Naturally, she wishes she’d had more input into her upbringing and she’s still mad about it.

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  1. November 11, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    My head is swarming with images. What a rich picture! Thank you.

  2. Barbara Smith
    November 12, 2009 at 9:14 am

    oh Angela, full of surprises. How wonderful and fun! You speak for quite a few of us.

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