A Second Language by Lesley Fowler Lebkowicz

In conversation class
Trang asks, Miss
would you eat
another person?
Oh, says Susan,
why ever would
I? And call me
Susan. ‘Miss’ is
far too formal.
In Vietnam, Duc
explains, we had
to show respect.
Sue nods and smiles.
Well, would you?
asks Trang again.
She twists a lock
of hair around
her index finger.
Her eyes hold
Susan still. At last
the teacher sees

the old man – from the start
a risk to travel with, but loved –
dying hungry thirsty as the boat
loses its way to Australia.
Duc and Trang and their parents
sit and chant the rites for the departed
their mouths are dry
the chanting doesn’t sound right
and then the son and father
takes his knife
cuts along the line of muscle
in the arm
removes the flesh
and hands it to his daughter.
she reaches for it
her eyes shocked
by the greed of her hand.

From: Westerly, No. 4, Summer, 1993, pp. 42-43.

Date: 1993

By: Lesley Fowler Lebkowicz (1946- )


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