Mary M. and the “R Word” : Revolutionary Email Poetic Lament

Her name was Mary.
She went to 6th grade with me.
I made fun of her.
I called her names,
Mostly the “r-word”.
I wrinkled up my nose,
Mimicked the way she nasally spoke.

I threw snowballs at her
When she walked to school,
And when she walked home.
Her friends would surround her
And try to protect her
From the cold slush that
Would smack her face
And make her scream
“Leave me ALONE!”.

But her friends could not
Surround and protect her
From the stinging insults
I and my friends
Hurled at her:
Retard.
Moron.
Mental.

That was nearly
A half century ago.
I see public service announcements
Telling me what I already know:
The R word is hurtful
And wrong,
And my memory
Of Mary
Cuts me
deservedly.

Now I am
In the same mountain valley
As I was then,
A place where people
Are supposed to be nice.

Someone in an office
Says a co-worker is a “retard”,
Then asks “Is that okay
To call him that?”

I want to stand
And scream:
“NO!
DEAR GOD!
NO!
NOT THAT!
It’s NOT OK!”

Her name was Mary.
I called her names,
Made fun of her,
And made her cry.

I’ve thought about Mary,
off and on,
for decades.
The memory of her
makes me now cry.
I want to tell her
I was ignorant
and stupid.
I want to ask
For her forgiveness,
But I don’t know how.

So I remember,
And weep,
And write:
“Mary.
I am sorry.”

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