“Primer” — Rita Dove

“Primer”
by
Rita Dove

In the sixth grade I was chased home by
the Gatlin kids, three skinny sisters
in rolled-down bobby socks. Hissing
Brainiac! and Mrs. Stringbean!, they trod my heel.
I knew my body was no big deal
but never thought to retort: who’s
calling who skinny? (Besides, I knew
they’d beat me up.) I survived
their shoves across the schoolyard
because my five-foot-zero mother drove up
in her Caddie to shake them down to size.
Nothing could get me into that car.
I took the long way home, swore
I’d show them all: I would grow up.

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