April 14, 2008
Amy Uyematsu — “Who Have Been Sad Even Before They Could Learn”
Who Have Been Sad Even Before They Could Learn
Where do they come from—
these children with old faces,
no visible evidence of abuse or neglect.
Was it a conversation overheard in the womb?
Or merely an infant wanting to sleep on its back
while the mother turns it over and over on its belly.
I was one of those children who always looks
older than the rest.
A mystery to the others.
At eleven I remember talking with Merle McPheeters,
a grey-eyed boy who, with some admiration,
called me “sophisticated.”
Merle said I didn’t have to get silly like so many girls.
I couldn’t explain yet how tired a young mouth can feel,
how languid the eyes, when
the world is faced, again and again,
with absolute seriousness.
That day Merle smiled as if imagining himself
too sophisticated for a small town preacher’s son.
He couldn’t have known how a random remark
from one kid to another
can last a girl her entire life.
—Amy Uyematsu, 1998