Friday, February 25, 2022

Black boys at the blackboard doing math . . .

     Last Wednesday evening the WordWorks-sponsored poetry reading, "Poets vs the Pandemic," brought back to my attention Pennsylvania poet Le Hinton who read from his recent collection, Sing Silence, and also some newer work.  Here is Hinton's very special poem about kids learning math.

     Uses of Cotton (Eraser)      by Le Hinton
      When my brother tells the story,
      he forgets to mention the sock, black
      and worn. Mom darned it in three places;
      Dad used it as an eraser.
      I never leave out the part
      about his teaching
      us numbers. When to add.
      How to subtract.
      He set up a blackboard in the back-
      yard and wrote problems on it. Even invited
      the neighborhood kids. We earned a piece
      of candy for each one we got right.      

      Four and five-year-old black boys
      standing at the blackboard doing math
      and hoping never to need the eraser,
      hoping to taste a Tootsie Roll.
      Back then I didn’t know the whole story:
      How Mom and Dad sat at the Formica table
      in our yellow kitchen as he counted his jobs
      and the money from each one while Mom mended
      the holes in our socks. We slept upstairs
      and never worried or counted sheep
      knowing they’d always fix the holes,
      at least until we learned to do the math ourselves.    

The recent reading in which I heard this fine poem is available here on YouTtube.    This link leads to earlier inclusions of Hinton's work in this blog. . ..

No comments:

Post a Comment