Monday, December 14, 2009

We Trouble the Waters - Ntozake Shange

Illustrated by Rod Brown (paintings)
Amistad/Collins, 2009
32 pages
Endpapers: Navy Blue

Being black in the south during Jim Crow - that's what these poems are about. Told in the first person, they are full of powerful voice/s. Poems entitled "Booker T. Washington School, 1941", "Water Fountains," Where I Live," Crying Trees," "Roadkill," "You Vote/You Die!" "The Klu Klux Klan," "Thank You Rosa Parks," "Martin Luther King, Jr.," " Brother Malcolm," "Sittin Down is Standin Up,".....

A couple of poems near the end have some interesting information added, to help people unaware of the history, or at least some of it. I wish there had been more explanations in the same vein for earlier poems. These are great poems, but many kids would need more explanation.

Cleanin Gal

if they catch me sittin/jus' for a moment
i might lose this heah job/but i can't 'ford to do that
all my children/matt, maceo, bertha, mae, sunshine, and the baby
'long with ma/look to me for vittles and shelter/
it's just that i got to scrub all these floors till tehy'd look like glass/
that takes all day and i still aint got to the laundry yet/
boilin clothes/starchin shirts/
Lawd have mercy i got to spend all day tomorrow ironin
so the missus and her mate can go to some bigshindig/
sposin i quit/how we gonna eat/no i aint going nowhere/
& there aint not fancy dunds or dancin in my future/
just scrubbin & scrubbin what aint mine

Heah Y'all Come

now the children run freely
toward each other
knowin no fears of the other
so what? she's brown and her lips thick
so what? yarmulkes atop their heads
Buddha's smile graces their faces
now America welcomes all the babies
si si/todos los ninos are ours
yes yes/wa alaikum salaam
& the gods watch over all children
& the flag protects each American

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