SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

The Louisiana Compulsory Education Act of 1916

 

Now when I see old cane

     stiff and leaning off from the wall 

         of the stalks that thrived, I wonder was this 


what the English-speaking teacher

     used on my grandparents 

         when she called on them in words 


they couldn't understand to stand? 

     Eyes can be lowered; what to do 

         with two-tongued mouths but keep

the one hidden behind the stalk 

     of the other, hushed under the cane’s 

         whipped down whistle. Now when I see old cane 

I see the frayed cover 

     of the Cajun dictionary my mother 

         took out from her drawer only when

                                                              no one was looking. I confess 

                                                                         I stole that book, hid it behind

                                                                                             hung dresses, thinking I too


                                                              should learn like that, kneeled

                                                                                                behind the dresses

                                                                                                                      invisible knees

                                                                           sewn for women who 

                                                              hold raw cane and the unraveling red

                                                                                                        binding of a dictionary


                                                         with the same two-handedness. 

                                                                            Thinking it had to be hidden,

                                                                                                          which is another way


                                                                                   to forget, so that 

                                                         when I remembered I too should learn

                                                                                 and went with both hands looking


                                                                                    the big red book

                                                                                        had gone, stolen back

                                                                                                              or muttered away

                                                                       like the seated woman

                                                                                        mouthing two or three

                                                                                                   strange words at a time, 


                                                                                       repeating herself at the wall.

 

Anne Price was born and raised in southern Louisiana. She received her MFA from the University of Maryland, where she was awarded the Stanley Plumly Thesis Award. She has received scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.

When There Were Highways,

Parcel