Inscrutable Sonnets


Brat (n.) ~ c. 1500, slang, “beggar’s child,” originally northern, Midlands and western England dialect word for “makeshift or ragged garment;” probably the same … as Old English bratt “cloak,” which is from a Celtic source (compare Old Irish bratt “cloak, cloth”).

The amuse-bouche is a mouth-amuser, a smaller bite
than a regular hors d’œuvre: how did I know this before
first grade and not yet (though in due time) that Ouagadougou
is the capital of Burkina Faso? My parents plied me, sickly child,
with mostly solitary amusements: books to devour hour upon hour;
coloring pencils, paper. When I wasn’t doing poorly, they took me
with them everywhere— which means, in the company of mostly adults,
I got to listen as they drank and smoked, trading news, puns, insults,
blushing jokes, tirades, other confidences of language. My father’s cousin
the congressman had a Korean mistress— She bore him a daughter, apple
of his eye. Once, we had to house them, out of sight, away from his wife’s
ire. The girl was older than me, but prissy: hard to feed, prone to tantrums.
I knew how to sweep floors, wash dishes. I can’t imagine what my parents’
friends mean: they say I remember you, you were such a brat back then.

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