Monday, February 18, 2013

What I Read First

Click to read related post,  FIRST READERS

by Robin W. Holland
With thanks to Billy Collins

What I read first is
a blur of blonde curly hair
on Alice’s head and her brother
Jerry pointing at Dad
who was always mowing the lawn
in Sunday-go-to-Church clothes
at the Mom who smiled
in her heels
and crisp blouse. 

That was at school
where I didn’t get the new books--
Dick and Jane.

I didn’t know
my books were outdated.
I didn’t know
racism was why my
now- predominantly black school
had not gotten the books.
All I knew was that I loved reading and
these were the books we were given. 

I did know that no one looked
like me in the books
No one had long dark braids
and heavy saddle shoes
or a gap in her protruding teeth.

No one looked like my dad
with his smooth olive skin and mustache,
slide rule and tape measure ever-ready.
No one look like my mom
in sandals and shorts
and no apron.

And my friends were not
In the books
In the re-released versions of the originals
sold as novelties
There is an African American family.
They were not
in the neighborhood
when I first read.

These children who were
In the books were always going
 and coming
 and jumping
 and looking.

This is what I read first
 at school

At home
there were shelves
of Golden Books
and magazines--
Humpty Dumpty and
Children’s Digest,
poetry and nursery rhymes.
And other books with  people 
who looked
like me
and did important things
and were what I could
or so I was told
at home
in what I read first.

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