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Beryl

By John I. Blair

I never knew her well,
Although we both were English majors
And joked that we were cousins,
Because we both had ancestors from Missouri
With the same name.

She wore a metal leg brace,
The kind that marked so many then
As having survived polio;
And although she could walk,
She walked awkwardly and painfully.

Finally, after four hard years, we reached the day
When we were all to get
The ornate document
That proved we had achieved
The right to be called Bachelor of Arts.

The custom at our school for that occasion
Is to line up by the hundreds at the top of carillon hill
Then march a quarter mile
Down to the stadium, around the field,
And up into the stands for hours of speeches.

To my amazement, she arrived without her brace,
Stood there on the hill with all the crowd,
And started down proudly, walking tall,
Feeling fully human
For perhaps the first time in years.

But halfway down, she fell;
The leg, so long protected by the brace,
Just did not have the strength she asked of it.
Others helped her to the side,
While all the rest of us strode past.

Through the entire ceremony
All I could think of was that sight,
And how unfair it seemed to me
That she had been denied that final victory
After all that she had won to get that far.

2/8/2002 John I. Blair


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