Wander Word


Circle Game

By Tera Vale Ragan

Tera Vale Ragan is the author of Reading the Ground (The Word Works 2014) and the recipient of the 2008 Virginia Middleton Award and the Mark Linenthal Award for poetry. She is currently a poetry editor for Rattapallax Magazine, living in Los Angeles assisting on the ABC show Revenge and continues to spend her summers writing in Prague, Czech Republic.

Dressed in matching floral prints, my mother leads us to the middle
of the room and adds us to the circle of young girls holding hands.

They smile and nod as I grab my sister’s palm and our cousin’s
while she begins to lead the ring around.

This is the direction of the circle game,
it moves like a clock around the wooden floor.

We hold on to each other, fingers fastened like braided hair,
and we follow, repeating in rhythm with foreign words.

I do not know the wheel of the mill we sing: Kolo, kolo mlynské ...
nor the value of four old coins...za štyri rýnske...

All I know is the way our tongues roll against the tops of our mouths–
we are full of O, and consonants that stick our feet to the ground.

We sing: kolo sa nám polámalo...not knowing the wheel has broken.
a do vody popadalo... and landed in the water below.

I run laugh run my short legs round faster,
as our hips swooshswing our dresses full of summer...

And splash! Urobilo bác! Just as fast,
we stop the clock, let go, and all fall to the floor.

They teach us the way back up again, staying low at first,
hunched at our chubknees and miming a motion with our forearms.

Vezmeme si hoblík, pílku... as if it were a saw we’ve taken up
zahráme sa ešte chvíl'ku... to rebuild the wheel in moments,

I imagine it a violin on the air, mimicking the music in our mouths,
rising taller as I play the sounds of this language filling our ears.

And when we finish, až to kolo spravíme... fully grown, we smile,
tááááák sa zatočíme!... knowing now the length of a vowel

gives us time to turn around -- We spin the colors
of our dresses, flower petals across the floor.