If I wuz t’ taak like I used t’ taak, irrud sound summin like diss. Dat’s how my bruv taaks. Laffs a’ me he does, says I taaks proper.
one stocking on
Mam says she’ll be there now
in a minute
I lost my Cardiff accent well before I went to university, never to return. Nowadays, apart from the occasional stretched vowel, all I can hear is the stressing of s’s and t’s that gives my voice a distinctly camp twang. In other words, just like Mister Bellot.
He taught history at my grammar school, and always carried a coiled cane capped with a pewter head that he cracked for attention, as in “What century are we living in?” Some of the new boys had accents, but what raised Mr. Bellot’s hackles, I’m sure, was when I answered his question with one more, “Dunno.”
Which is why I’m in his office, staring at the floor.
“Where are you from, boy?” “Splott.” “Splott, sir.” “Sorry, Splott, sir.” “Hold out your hand, boy.”
I hear the whoosh before I feel the pain. “Hurt?” “Yes, sir.” “Look at me. Hold this in your other hand.”
It is a book of hymns, open to page 27.
“Read the hymn.” “’oly, ’oly, ’oly...”—whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.
“No boy, it’s ‘Holeh, Holeh, Holeh.’ Again!”
Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, and again, and again, and tomorrow and the next, through each verse of the hymn, to the last, and those weeks with “Blessed Trinity,” ’til a day, and from dat day, dat I can taaks proper.
behind the s’s and t’s
a slight Welsh lilt
is the author of Lessons for Tangueros (poetry), Marcel Malone
(novel), and Tick Tock (haibun collection). His haibun have been widely
published and anthologized, and in 2019 he was elected into the New Resonance
community of haiku poets. Originally from Wales, he now lives in Chicago, USA.