For several weeks I’ve been reading Jim Wallis’s bestseller, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America. Alongside this I’m reading again some of Maya Angelou’s poems. I find them tough, true and invitational. They invite me to see things through the eyes of others.
First, a sing-song poem for children living in Harlem, home to many African Americans, located in northern Manhattan in New York City.
In this first poem I hear seeds of resistance, resilience, pride, and discernment about how things are, and what it takes to stay alive. Try sing-songing it as though you were hopping or singing along with one of the children in the photo above. Can you imagine yourself in his or her feet? Why or why not?
One foot down, then hop! It’s hot.
Good things for the one’s that’s got.
Another jump, now to the left,
Everybody for hisself.
In the air, now both feet down.
Since you black, don’t stick around.
Food is gone, the rent is due,
Curse and cry and then jump two.
All the people out of work,
Hold for three, then twist and jerk.
Cross the line, they count you out.
That’s what hopping’s all about.
Both feet flat, the game is done.
They think I lost. I think I won.
Here’s the second poem, also about life in the USA. This time from the perspective of an adult living on the edge. The note says this poem is to be sung. Can you find a tune that would work? Or make up a tune?
Ring the big bells,
cook the cow,
put on your silver locket.
The landlord is knocking at the door
and I’ve got the rent in my pocket.
Douse the lights,
hold your breath,
take my heart in your hand.
I lost my job two weeks ago
and rent day’s here again.
Both poems are from Maya Angelou, one of the Poetry for Young People series, published by Sterling Children’s Books in 2013; pp 14 and 15.
Here’s to a thoughtful, relaxing, challenging and uplifting weekend!
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 October 2018
Photo found at blackthen.com