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The words of a child

When we were small
my younger brother and I
had to stay with the Von Hörsten’s
during the day,
when my mother went to work

and we had to play outside
and was threatened
that we would get dresses
when we wanted
to come into the house,

but this staying
ended dramatically
in my sixth year.

One night my mother wanted to know
how it is going
with out daily visitation,
whereupon I told her
that every thing was well
and my brother said
that I eat my food very slowly.

I told her
that I do not like cabbage
and that we have to eat everything
or get a hiding
if something is left
on our plates.

My mother said that vegetables
are good and necessary to eat
and I accepted it like that,
but it wasn’t the end
of the story.

As a innocent child
my brother told this incident
to one of the Von Hörsten boys
who told it to his dad.

I played in the hillock above their house
when all of the Von Hörsten boys suddenly
came running out of the farmhouse
and went in all directions
calling for me,
but I could immediately see
that there was big trouble
from the way
that they were shouting and searching.

So I stayed were I was
and wondered about what was going on
and what terrible thing
I had done unknowing?

The much older and bigger boys
sneaked up that hill
and jumped on me
from behind
and grabbed me
and I was carried
right up to their dad.

Uncle Hendrik was a man
that didn’t take nonsense
from anyone
and wanted to know from me,
why I did not want to eat
his wife’s food
and why I am saying
that her food tastes awful?

So I said that it isn’t true
and he shouted
that I must stop lying
and jagged me closer
on my neck
with the hook of his walking stick
and hit me with it.

Stuttering I couldn’t get words
to explain
the circumstances
and then he shouted
talk man talk
and stop thinking
what to lie about
while he was still hitting me.

So I said
that I didn’t like cabbage
and got another hiding
and was said to be silent
or to talk the truth.

So I said that God is my witness
and that a day would come
that his words would also dry up
and be totally in confusion.

Like a dog I was chased away
with a footsack shouted at me
and fled away from
his walking stick
to our house.

The Von Hörsten’s called my mother
and told her about every thing
and she knew
from where my trouble came
and for a whole month
my brother had to eat cabbage,
because he talked
out of the house
and never again
we stayed over with the Von Hörsten’s.


l’Envoi
Many years later
when I was at University
I saw uncle Hendrik Von Hörsten
on the campus
and we greeted each other
and spoke normally
about the things happening in the country
and about our families,

but when he walked away
other students spoke to him
and the once known writer
spoke back in jabbering language
as if he didn’t know
what to say
and was totally confused.

It was said
that he had Alzheimer’s,
but until today I wonder
about the power
coming from
the words of a child.

[Reference: The word uncle used here out of respect and local custom and not to point out family relationship.]

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