by Erika Dyk
I. Saturday. Casselton, ND. January 2017.
She stops me in at the speech meet
In the hospitality room. We reconnect after four years.
She compliments my kindness, to which I promptly reply,
"It is because I have been shown great kindness--
I feel compelled to pass it on."
"That is how kindness works, isn't it?" She speaks greatness onto that kindness word.
II. Sunday. Fargo, ND. 2017.
I sit in a Sunday School class.
"Cancer." "Cancer." "Cancer."
My new friend, an older lady, then speaks these words, "Cancer is such a scary word."
But the word kind echoes in my mind.
III. State Speech. Mandan, ND. 2002.
I'm a sophomore. First time to state.
I sit in my inform round.
My teammate comes to the door, "Coach said to come get you."
But it's speech. State speech. And I'm in a round.
Speech Etiquette: to leave a round, ask "May I please be excused?" Only leave the round if you have another round to go to.
I don't have another round to go to in that flight.
"I'm in a round," I say, embarrassed to have her interrupt.
"Come," she says.
It's state. I think. She's persistent.
I eventually go.
The assistant coach shares the news.
Mom stood up and her femur broke,
she's on her way to Bismarck via ambulance.
My sister cries. I don't.
I don't know what this is. She does.
Next round. Humorous duo. My partner knows something is off. I'm not very funny. We get a 5.
First time at state.
Our team placed second.
My sister cries.
A judge from the year comes up to her. "I don't know why you didn't break, but you're the best impromoptu speaker in the state, both sides."
He doesn't know it isn't about speech. It's not about speech.
Speech Etiquette: to leave a round, ask "May I please be excused?" Only leave the round if you have another round to go to. Or if you need to find out that your mom broke her leg, which you later find out at the hospital was because of cancer. So, cancer, too. You can leave the round for cancer.
III. Residence. Bowman, ND. 2002-2004
So many meals.
So much kindness shown--
Above and beyond "North Dakota Nice."
IV. Friends and Family Service. Bowman United Methodist Church. March 14, 2008.
So many words spoken.
Words used to honor, to remember.
Strong words, beautiful words, kind words.
A community comes to support.
V. Friday. Casselton, ND. January 20, 2017
My new speech team and I are getting ready for tomorrow's speech meet.
My phone dings a message:
The biospy is clear.
"We celebrate good news, right?" I ask my new speech team.
"My step-mom doesn't have cancer!"
I step away.
Let myself get a little emotional.
And then go back.
Because there are kind words, honorable words, beautiful words that need to be said.
Thank you to the speech judge who spoke greatness into kindness and set this poem into motion.