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Public Speaking Contest

Slawek/Creative Commons

Or when she told us, for the tenth time maybe,
about the public speaking contest that, as a young
law student, she’d won, nearly won, even though
she faced serious competition, and like everyone
there was stunned that a woman had won, nearly won,
and not a man, a future judge or lawyer,
she came out the best, nearly the best, although technically
speaking someone else took home first prize—
and that was her greatest success,
and when we listened to her story, later, much later,
ironically, a little bored, thinking: "you’re still
caught up in a competition, invisible this time,
like most such occupations,
and you want us to bestow the laurels
they refused you then,”
and how I wish I could hear
her tell the story again
about the contest she nearly won,
and in which, I think, after decades
of her memory’s unceasing labor,
she finally carried the day.

Translated by Clare Cavanagh