Friday, August 29, 2008

Poem for my son entering kindergarten

Looking for Omar
E. Ethelbert Miller

I'm in the school bathroom
washing my hands without
soap but I'm still washing my hands.

I turn the water off
and look for a paper towel
but paper towels have been gone
since the first day of school
and it's June now. the rest here.

I was looking for a poem for my son Buddy, who is starting kindergarten next Tuesday. I am thinking about how many school days he has ahead of him, and how many schools, and how glad I am that he is starting at the school where I work. It's a great school and not like the one in the poem at all. I wish every child had such a school.

I am thinking about the beginnings of school days, and the start of a new year, and all that children encounter in school. The way school interprets the world with all it's violence, hope, struggle and striving. On Sept 11, 2001 we were in our first full week of school and we didn't even know our kindergarteners very well. We had to navigate the shock of falling towers with little ones around our knees. This year we start on the surge of Olympic fever and the national political conventions full of hope and promise. My middle son starts kindergarten and I start back at graduate school in an online program. It feels like a good year to start the next part of our education.

In my search for poem for a Black boy entering kindergarten I found Maya Angelou's site Furious Flower.
In partnership with Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University, Dr. Maya Angelou, and the Target Corporation, the Poetry Foundation has developed curriculum for teaching essential African American poetry to students of all ages.
What a great resource for teaching poetry with children! There is a list there with links to a poem a day for the month of April, National Poetry Month. The above poem by E. Ethelbert Miller is listed there. Check out the others here.

The Friday Poetry roundup is over at Charlotte's Library. Enjoy the long weekend!


alotalot said...

I really love this poem. Thanks for the site. Good luck to both of you as you head back to school!

Tricia said...

Buddy's going to Kindergarten! What fun that will be. I hope next week goes well.

Barbara H. said...

Wow, the whole poem is sad to me. I hate that young people are caught in such situations. But I loved the poet's style.

Karen E. said...

The poem is heartwrenching. But how sweet and hopeful and lovely that your son is going to your school. I hope he has a great week, a great year and a great life. :-)

Mary Lee said...

Good luck and lots of fun to both Buddy and you: to him at the start of the start, and to you at the start of the next phase of lifelong learning (via schools).

Elaine Magliaro said...


My daughter Sara attended the elementary school at which I taught. My school, too, was filled with amazing teachers and other staff members. One of the janitors even played ball with her in the hallways on days when we had staff meetings after school. Sara had a wonderful educational experience there. I'm sure your son will be well cared for at your school.

To be sure, not all children have such positive experiences. It's also sad that so much of our educational money and efforts are now spent on testing and prepping kids for standardized tests.

I hope your son likes kindergarten.

Happy Labor Day!

laurasalas said...

I hope you both have wonderful starts at school this year!

What a bittersweet poem. Poetry educates us all in ways that school isn't equipped to.

susan said...

I have missed reading here. Glad to be back. Attended Meeting yesterday and thought of you. Please come see me and please consider a new feature at my blog:

Have you posted a poem, short shorty, essay or some visual art that just didn't get the love you'd hoped? We share our work and hope others enjoy it. Online, comments let us know our work has been read and appreciated.

To celebrate older posts that got zero or few comments, leave a link at Little Lovin’ Mondays, hosted by Susan at Black-eyed Susan’s. And to show even greater appreciation for your fellow bloggers, how about commenting to a new piece while you there.

*you might remember me as zawadi at Shelfari