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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Embarrassed (07/19/07)

TITLE: To Who's Embarrassment?
By Janice Cartwright
07/25/07


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“Folks may be poor, but soap and water are cheap!”
I’d often heard my mother say.
But even soap and water may have price too dear
for some to pay.

“Anyone can be clean!” but poor, plain Martha Jean,
had no one to tidy up her hair:
no gentle mother’s hand to scrub away the day
with all its care.

Not one soul to soothe at ample breast the hurt;
the pain must wait
to burrow deep into the night and sleepless
pillow fate.

And so I ask what fault this child could ever own that day,
mere child, to pay so dear?
What right to snatch her little bit of dignity away
and leave her naught but fear?

For nature’s call will come to all: it doesn’t ask permission
like her shy voice, not once, but twice,
“I need to go, I cain’t wait,” but teacher turned her down!
“Oh, please!” once more she begged, this time extra nice.

But answer same came once again, “My dear. I know your kind!"
Martha Jean, poor, plain, dirty,
pasty pale and freckled face, hair like white and sour straw,
pariah in your poverty.

You bore the blame for birth and shame and things you didn’t do!
We made your burden more:
to sit in silence at your tears, too-slow awakened shock and grief
as you relieved yourself upon the floor.


Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. Matthew 25:45


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Member Comments
Member Date
Dee Yoder 07/27/07
Well, the title asks the question that the poem answers. It certainly would be embarrassing and humiliating.
Linda Watson Owen08/02/07
Hi Janice. I'm late commenting, but wanted to say that you've created a character in plain Martha Jean who definitely captures your readers' hearts. One of the ultimate embarrassments for a child is what she suffers here. You've communicated it skillfully.