Letter to My HS English Tutor

I don’t remember much of you,

except for the important things:

how you asked me about that girl

in class, the one everyone laughed at,

her smile was like yours, so big

and bold, everyone wanted to crush it.

You felt for her, couldn’t understand

why a pretty and smart girl like that

was tortured and needed to leave school--

I squirmed, couldn’t explain it to you: the way 

her hairy legs stood out under her shorts,

how she didn’t lower her screeching voice,

how she was so completely herself

and wouldn’t disguise it

but I didn’t think you’d understand,

not until we read Lord of the Flies

and oh god, how I hated them all, hated the grotesque

slobbery of Piggy and Roger’s cruelty.

And when I saw the fly buzzing

and my hand snapped down on it,

how I seemed to enter your mouth

and you said we kill things all the time

don’t we? and I thought of that girl,

crushed under bullies.

Didn’t you just kill that bug?

and I laughed because it’s not

the same thing, I said, and

I hated you then, or loved you.

And you took my hand and the paper 

towel and the bug beneath

it and you said, isn’t it?

Now I think of you when I’m too tired

for mercy, or for coaxing insects

out open doors, when I push down

as quickly as I can and try not to look,

try not to hear the begging.

Barbara Joy Beatus-Vegh is a poet and visual artist. A grand-daughter of Holocaust survivors, she writes poetry dealing with themes of ancestral trauma and new motherhood.