On Wednesday my class had a truly magical hour with poet Natasha Trethewey who is at our school this year as a visiting artist. Aware of Natasha’s interest in history and primary source documents, I asked her if she would be interested in building on my students’ work with Sarah Margru Kinson, a child on the Amistad. She was.
And so Natasha came and, after leading the class in a close reading of several of Elizabeth Alexander’s Amistad poems from her collection American Sublime, guided them into creating a group poem of their own. After she left, the inspired children created individual Amistad poems and then presented them as collages. Please go see them here; they are quite wonderful!
In a couple of weeks, Natasha will return for a very special Literary Salon during which the children will perform their poems (which we will, of course, podcast).
And so, without further ado, here is the class poem:
What I remember of home is this:
green – green mangoes, green snakes, green bananas:
brown – my mother, my father, myself, the tree
trunks, the brown earth, the color of my language,
the only language I had
to describe these things.
Often I think of
how I came to be here:
my father pawning me, waving goodbye,
his face crumpled, tightened, looking
away from me.
I felt my captor’s white, cold hand
tighten around my wrist as if
he were a solid ghost taking me away.
Now I wish to see again
the green rice fields,
my father’s brown face,
clouds in the sky —
the only white things,
to hear someone speaking my language,