Latvian Feature

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Inese Zandere
Inese Zandere


putting my hand on my ABC
i swear
it's as simple as ABC


little ilze is drawing a small house and a big
your drawing is all wrong ilze
the big person can't fit
through the small door

and i believe their every word
really how can the big PERSON
fit through the small door

now you go ahead and continue

the children want to correct the drawing
and elza pulls out

aivars makes a mistake
but it has already happened
elza pulls out a gun
and shoots
the big PERSON
the drawing has been corrected

read it right aivars
says the teacher
and i suddenly realize
i am not breathing

and elza pulls up
a chair
and draws a path
the path is narrow by the door

elza labors and strains

but it is wide by

man how i would like to correct this record
but one two three
the "A" students march ahead
all roads are open to them
where else can a man feel so free
he walks across borders head held high
his feet are so terribly tired
yet it does move

ed īte now it's your turn

ed īte puts a chapped finger
under that line
she has no idea
what good it will do for elza
but if she must help her
she will certainly manage

she was hit the hardest
with our holy scripture
our ABC
so thick with the truth

the door is far away

i look on from the last row
the iron stove is so very near
so hot and right next to me
is something burning
wood chips strewn on the floor

the door is far away and seems small

perhaps i am cross-eyed
part of the time
perhaps I look inward
it is quiet and hot in the room
i have remained

it is quiet and hot in the room

my cotton stockings are held fast
by the buttons of my suspenders
the mumified lenin is
curly headed on the star on my chest

in our ABC
daddy and mommy
the motherland rejoice
over the fact that we are learning to read
and want to become "A" students soon
in our ABC
the swan is made white
by the sea
I resist but inside me
a PERSON breaks out
making me choke on rhymes
and ask for a handkerchief

jānis is polite with ease
mommy may i have one please

i can make chains out of paper
to decorate the tree
wearing a white gauze skirt
I can do the snowflake dance

i am getting pretty good grades
my reading is excellent
in the hot quiet room

i too seem small
to myself
not so to you

teacher please
it's my turn now
i have to testify:

THE PERSON is near
they should be drawn big
ilze's drawing it right

Translated by Ieva Lešinska