The Story of the White Cup by Roger Mitchell

Roger Mitchell

The Story of the White Cup


I am not sure why I want to tell it

since the cup was not mine and I was not there,

and it may not have been white after all.

When I tell it, though, it is white, and the girl

to whom it has just been given, by her mother,

is eight. She is holding a white cup against her breast,

and her mother has just said goodbye, though those

could not have been, exactly, the words. No one knows

what her father has said, but when I tell it,

he is either helping someone very old with a bag,

a worn valise, held in place with a rope,

or asking a guard for a cigarette. There is, of course,

no cigarette. The cattle cars stand with their doors

slid back. They are black inside, and the girl

who has just been given a cup and told to walk

in a straight line and told to look like she wants

a drink of water, who screamed in the truck

all the way to the station, who knew, at eight,

where she was going, is holding a cup to her breast

and walking away, going nowhere, for water.

She does not turn, but when she has found water,

which she does, in all versions of the story, everywhere,

she takes a small sip of it, and swallows.


Roger Mitchell


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