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Callaloo 23.1 (2000) 43

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Assimilation Blues

Constance Merritt

Part 1: In the Family

The moon's silver, the sun's plentiful gold,
The splendor of the prince and all his world
Beguiled our eyes until we came to hate
The things of home: the smell of brine, the weight
Of waterlight, the palaces' dank walls
Dripping jewels--corals, ambers, pearls,
And cockle-shells. We let our garden plots,
Much cherished once, run rife with weeds; forgot
The haunting songs our mothers sang, our own
Voices dissonant in our ears; each of us alone
In self-disgust: the scales, the backward tongue,
The fish's tail, the way we swam among
The animals, the lowest ones, soulless
As they were. The old ones grieved for us: solace
We spurned; there was nothing for it but to leave,
And it seemed small sacrifice for us to give
Everything for what we'd get in turn:
Love and a soul.
         Well, live and learn.

Constance Merritt, winner of this year's Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry, is the author of A Protocol for Touch (University of North Texas Press), her first collection of poems. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming from Callaloo, The Journal, The Malahat Review, Descant, and Prairie Schooner.



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