Gail Bohle

The Novices

Another windy, dusty evening in the Bergville fraternity.  My room mate Nomsa was sleeping peacefully.  I uncrumpled my rejected poem and looked at the dead words. Tears dropped onto my cheeks and I pushed my face into the pillow as misery engulfed me.  Nomsa’s poem was admired.  Mine was pushed aside.  She was poor, oppressed and black.  I was privileged, wealthy and white.  I was being cast aside. I crunched up the poem and threw it across the room.  My body felt hurt, sore, abandoned, shut down.   Blown apart. Only an empty shell remained.  I would never write poetry again. I would never dream, reach for, hope for anything again.  I was a failure as a novice and there was nothing to carry on for.  I had lost myself entirely …

… My driver pulls up outside the Bay Hotel and I reach across the seat to pick up my poetry collection.  A flutter of nerves unsettles my tummy. I go over the poems I have chosen to present and allow my fingers to wander over the glossy cover of my anthology.  As my door is opened for me, a shadow appears on the ground.  Before I turn to look at her, a prickle runs down my spine.  “Nomsa!”  She steps forward to embrace me.  “It’s been so long, Wendy.”  She walks with me and as we enter the dining room together, she rubs my arm gently.  “Break a leg,” rings in my ears as I step up onto the stage and begin reading my first poem. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Nomsa in the crowd. She is smiling at me and nodding as I read. As I reach the last line, I look into the audience.  Oh my goodness. Now she is standing up and clapping like a lunatic!

A smile creeps across my face and the crumpled poem vanishes into a cloud of new thoughts.

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