Learning the Letters (Film-Poem)

Learning the Letters Britton, South Dakota, 1939 "F" is for future, bright as a lens, bubbles in the scrubbing basin, thin as the skin on aunt Agnes's hand, the breakable surface of a pollywog egg. It's no shame to be poor, but a shame to be dirty, since soap is cheap and water is free, and hats last a lifetime for those who can't afford the ribbons and pomade. One day you will be gee-whiz gone, just like "T", like "that", the last Cracker Jack in the box, the last farrier in a town full of town cars--the touchdown you scored, the gloves, plaques, and blue ribbons boxed up for safekeeping, which is never quite safe enough. Outside, it is bright. It is "B" and you are abuzz at the start of things, though you "H" and mother says he who "hesitates" is "L", which you were once, at the fair, "lost" in a petrified forest of trousers and skirts, and will be again job-seeking in Des Moines or Detroit, the hot, big "D" of Dallas, looking to make a name that will make the town paper. There is always a way, when you square up straight, "F" is for facing the music, the camera, looking up eye-to-eye as your portrait gets taken, showing yes, you were "S" you were somebody, looking, direct and uncertain down the long barrel of whatever is ahead. Credits Children of Britton, South Dakota Filmed by Ivan Besse in 1938 Courtesy Prelinger Archives 8mm projector sound courtesy nemoDaedalus Music by Valerie Kampmeier Poem by Robert Peake

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