Today his name is John. They want him to forget what he was called yesterday, to reject his past, his traditions. They cut his hair, gave him proper clothes.

Their government created this school with trees from sacred forests. Its limestone foundation violates land that birthed his nation.

Teacher’s bony hand squeezes his darker fingers into the chalk, which drags against the slate, crying the letters of her language. Spirals and swoops, lines that lean, trembling with meaning.

He repeats the lumpy, starchy words she gives him. Pruned syllables, flogged rhythms, distorted shapes with an aftertaste of blood:

“Lib-er-ty.”