Poetry Wednesday: Why Mother

I mentioned a week ago that the Civil Rights Unit under Bill Delahunt the then Norfolk County District Attorney formed a Students Alliance Against Racism. It was quite successful at the time especially because of the cooperation of the police chiefs and police officers in Norfolk County, Massachusetts along with the many teachers, administrators and principals who sought to make it work

During its existence it had a writing competition back in 1985. Some of the students submitted poems. Here is one that was received:

Why Mother?

Why mother? Why don’t the guys want me around?

 And when I smile at them they turn around

Mother, is it because I’m different?

 I just don’t understand…

Mother, in school no ones shakes my hand.

 In the halls no one walks or talks with me,

Is it because I’m different, that they think I’m not fun?

 Sometimes, I just want to scream, I want to run

 I want to be like everyone.

Really, I’m not ashamed of being different

everyone’s different in their own way.

But if it’s not wrong, why is there a price to pay?

But you know mother, maybe if they were in my place,

they would understand all the hurt I feel

from this cruelty I face

of being discriminated because of my race.

 

Nayrobi Tejada Norwood High School

 

 

 

15 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday: Why Mother

  1. Today, the spam filter placed this e-mail in the spam folder.
    Not yesterday, or any day before that. Just today.
    Does the spam filter dislike poetry,
    or was it a value judgement by perverse AI?

    1. Ed:

      I didn’t know I had a spam filter. If I do it operates without my permission and according to its own ideas. Maybe it does have something against poetry. If I find it, I’ll ask.

  2. Today, the spam filter placed this e-mail in the spam filter.
    Not yesterday, or any day before that. Just today.
    Does the spam filter dislike poetry,
    or was it a value judgement by perverse AI?

  3. Dennis Brain French , Peter Pears Tenor, Composer Benjamin Britten

    Blake’s poem as set by Britten as the “Elergy” from his “Serenade for Tenor Horn and Strings”. With English Subtitles.

    1. Wayfarer
      If I could do the things I please
      I’d get a ship and roam the seas
      the winds and waves would be my vassals
      Every port of call would be my castle

      And I’d wander from land to land
      Perhaps chance upon a pirate band
      Or on some forbidden shore
      Come upon some treasure lore

      And when this wild life did pall on me
      I’d travel home and live in my memory

      R.M. Hutchinson
      At Dorchester High School

  4. https://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/portraits/langston-hughes

    Robert Shetterly/Americans Who Tell The Truth
    Langston Hughes
    Poet, Novelist, Playwright : 1902-1967
    Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, the stealth, the lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers, The mountains and the endless plain — All, all the stretch of these great green states — And make America again.

    Also see

    Beloit Poetry Journal

    https://www.bpj.org/issues/v62n3

    Robert Shetterly, cover art
    “Langston Hughes,” acrylic on panel, 2005, from the series “Americans Who Tell the Truth

  5. Yes, quite a moving, poem. Yes, it was a good thing Bill Delahunt did along with the teachers in educating school children about discrimination. People should be praised for the good they do. W.S. “the evil men do lives after them; the good oft interred with their bones.”

    If you stopped the poem, before the mention of “race”, it would have a more universal appeal. Children and Adults feel discrimination because of race, religion, country of origin, ethnicity, or color of skin (I’ve seen Asian Indians whose skin color is blacker than most Africans), See the movie Passage to India based on the book by the inestimable E.M. Forrester). Some people are discriminated against simply because they are “new” (just moved into the neighborhood or school) or because they are different, perhaps shyer or more artistic or more outspoken.

    An infinite variety of reasons and non-reasons (gut reactions, emotions, ancient taboos, folklore, misinformation) cause ordinary folks to wrongfully discriminate against others.

    Here’s my poem on point, by Emily Dickenson:

    I never saw a moor
    I never saw the sea
    Yet know I how a heather looks
    And what a wave must be
    I never spoke with God
    Nor visited in heaven
    But sure I am of the spot
    As if the chart were given

    Heaven was in her heart, mind and soul, and she obviously believed in an afterlife.

    So, too, hatred and bigotry exists in the minds, hearts and souls of some people.

    Scripture, (the ancient holy writings, primarily the Old and New Testaments, but also s all holy and time tested writings, including the Koran, the writings of Tao, the writings of and about Buddha, and the interpretations thereof by scholars, fiction writers and poets . . .and visual artists, in paintings and cinema, et cetera. I think especially of Herman Hesse’s “Journey to the East”, a literary take on the four gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, and I think too of Hesse’s “Siddartha”, a rendition in fiction of the life of the Buddha. . . .

    As I was saying, Scripture is poetical, too.

    You know the gospel of Matthew contains a verse that says anyone who calls another “a fool” is doomed to Hell. Hell can be in the mind, soul and heart, too, but I think the poetical,, metaphorical interpretation is simply a caution against demeaning others, against hubrus, against pride. LIke the Native Americans said, “Do not criticize another, unless you have walked in his moccasins.”

    My lifelong friend Danny Ryan said the same thing but more prosaically poetically: “Hating takes too much out of you.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church says calumny is a sin. Calumny is saying something bad about another even if it is true. So, the poets and Scripture and common sense cautions “restraint of tongue and pen.”

    We all sin. Some are stuck in the muck. Some wallow in the muck.

    There is no systemic racism in America, it has been eliminated by the 1960s-1970s Civil Rights Acts, reinforced by State Statutes and Regulations. It is against the law for persons, institutions or organizations to discriminate against any person based on race, creed, ethnic origin or sex . . .and just this year the Supreme Court of the United States extended that to discrimination based on sexual orientation. Sex the court says means sexual orientation.

    So what? So, we all should strive to eradicate, eliminate or at least diminish and not act upon the prejudices, biases, and hates we harbor inside us. Societies should educate both adults and children in schools about the harms discrimination causes and the reasons why we have laws prohibiting it. Unjust Discrimination is Unfair.

    Want to understand how discriminating against “the different” hurts? Read the book and see the 12 part series on PBS “Normal People.”

    It is a poetic, literary, artistic masterpiece about an Irish high school student from Sligo (just north of Galway; Sligo is W.B. Yeats’ home county) who is different, shy, introverted, and her classmates discriminate against her, and she still stands out in college, but is more admired for her beauty and independence of thought and behavior at Trinity College in Dublin. We see in ‘Normal People” that as the poem Matt cites says, discrimination isolates and harms both the victims and the perpetrators. We see that much discrimination comes from a lack of understanding, a lack of sympathy, a lack of empathy, a failure to identify with The Other. Think how different Vincent Van Gogh was, or how different the Nerd is, or how different the girl is who practices piano eight hours a day but lacks some social skills. Think how different Russians and Indians and Chinese and Japanese and Serbians and Lebanese and Egyptians are from “Us” then remember our neighbors and classmates who are Russian-American, Indian-American, Asian-American, Middle-Eastern American, Balkan-Americans.

    No law can eradicate hatred/bias/prejudice from individuals’ hearts, minds and souls. Experience and education can.

    Remember Shylock when asked, “Surely if He forfeit, thou will not take his flesh (Antonio, I think it was, put up as collateral “a pound of flesh” to borrow some cash) And Shylock replied, You bet I will. But W.S. elaborated:
    “He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses; mocked my gains; thwarted my bargains; scorned my nation, cooled my friends and heated my enemies. And what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes?Hath not a Jew hands, organs, senses, dimensions, affections, passions, fed with the same food, hurt by the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian us. If you tickle us, do we not laugh. If you cut us, do we not bleed. And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his sufferance? Revenge. And If a Christian wrong a Jew then what should his sufferance be by the same Christian example?”
    “The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go harsh, but I will better the example.” . . . . .as I remember it.

    You see, the eye for an eye. An Irishman hurts an Englishman and then for the next millennium from the initial harm, they teach their children to hate each other. They once did. Some did. And they waged wars to rectify the wrongs.

    Today, we see in all races, ethnic groups, children being taught to hate and fear the other . . .We see haters in all races and ethnic groups.

    Where does it end? When Liberals stop hating Conservatives, and vice versa. With the Third World War, a nuclear one? When an asteroid strikes earth killing all mammals?

    You tell me. And stop perpetuating hatred. It is really sad to see the reverse racism in Society, where now it is acceptable in some circles to condemn “Whites.”

    If only, we would listen to and heed the poetry of Martin Luther King, Jr. “Judge people by the content of thier character not the color of their skin” not by immutable, genetic characteristics (skin color) or places people are born, or characteristics instilled in them by their upbringing, religion, political preferences, musical proclivities.

    You want to eliminate bigotry> Start with the politically biased, leftist Main Stream Media, and ditto for the increasingly leftist Academia, and major elements within the Bureaucracies, FEDs and STATIES who are biased, against, let us say, conservatives, or against Christians, or against Catholics, or against people from South Boston.

    You do not think the Black Panthers were bigoted, biased, or the Nation of Islam headed by that kid from Uphams Corner, Louis Farrakhan were biased? You think many leftist liberals are free from bias? Writers at the Boston Globe and New York Times seethe with hatred of The Other, it is evident in their writing, their biased writings indicate the content of their character . . .and while they spew venom, they pontificate, feigning a holier than thou attitude, pompous rectitude, huburs. Many leftist liberals in the MSM and Academia are blinded by their own biases and hatreds.

    As for teaching courses to high school students and college students about tolerance, I’d also favor more science courses about embryology to students of reproductive age.

  6. “Standing on a street corner waiting for no one is power”
    Gregory Corso

    Gregory Corso was born in New York City on 26 March 1930. His mother, sixteen years old when Gregory was delivered, abandoned the family a year later and returned to Italy. Afterwards, Corso spent most of his childhood in orphanages and foster homes. His father remarried when Gregory was eleven years old, and he had his son stay with him, but the boy repeatedly ran away. He was removed to a boy’s home, from which he also ran away. His troubled adolescence included a stint of several months in the Tombs, the New York City jail, for a case involving a stolen radio, and three months of observation in Bellevue. At seventeen, he was convicted of theft and sentenced to Clinton State Prison for three years. During his incarceration, he read avidly from the prison library and began writing poetry. After his release in 1950, he met Allen Ginsberg, through whom he also became acquainted with William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, as well as other New York writers and artists. In 1952 he worked for the Los Angeles Examiner and later served as a merchant seaman. In 1954 he unofficially attended Harvard University, where students contributed to the publication of his first collection of poems, The Vestal Lady on Brattle and Other Poems. Two years later he joined Ginsberg in San Francisco, where Lawrence Ferlinghetti published his volume of poems Gasoline. In 1957 Corso joined Kerouac and Ginsberg for a series of unconventional readings and interviews. Since that time he has traveled extensively, especially in Mexico and Eastern Europe. He taught briefly at the State University of New York at Buffalo and occasionally during summer sessions at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. His major publications after Gasoline include The Happy Birthday of Death (1960), The American Express (1961), Long Live Man (1962), Elegaic Feelings American (1970), Herald of the Autochthonic Spirit (1981), and Mindfield (1991).

    http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/gregory_corso/biography

    This just in…..

    1. Finally, MSMFREEH, hits the nail on the head. Kerouac was from Lowell, home of the mills and golden gloves boxing championships. Yes, these men, like Andy Warhola, the Polish American kid, thought differently.

      Ginsberg’s Howl, and was it Burrough’s work about an alligator or elephant or something . . .anyway a friend from downtown Boston at Starbuck’s on Boylston near the Pru recommended it to me. Fascinating stuff. New ways of looking at life. Like jazz, country, rock&roll.

      And yes, we liked hanging around Harvard Square and walking through Harvard Yard, and listening to Eric Anderson on Charles Street in Beacon Hill.

      But in Savin Hill we had their peers. Bunzo Bonetti and Frannie Mahoney who summered with Norman Mailer down the Cape. And Frannie, a B.U. Football Star and something like President of his Class, a WWII vet who captured six Train Conductors, thinking they were German High Command, who was one of the Four Esquires that sang with Patti Paige, and sang at the Coppacabana (sp?) in NYC and performed world-wide (e.g., Frannie told me that back in Germany the groupies asked Frannie to sign their undergarments, the Four Esquires were that populat) and Franny back in Boston started the PBS television series Poetry in Motion . . .and Franny and Bunzo were equally talented and both called Savin Hill, Dorchester, home, and we were privileged to learn from them and emulate them with our rock band in ’66 down Marhpee, Cape Cod, our cottage on the Mashpee River, with our own dock out back, and we sang: “Wild thing, you make my heart sing, you make everything, groovy . . .Wild thing, I think I love you, but I want to know for sure, come on and hold me tight . . .I love you . . .Wild thing” the Trogs’ music was a bit better than the lyrics . . .

      Yes, Corso, was one of those great Americans who freely expressed themselves, who surmounted hardships and setbacks and just kept on getting up no matter how many times they got knocked down or fell down: As Mac the Dog said, “Fight for freedom on the relatively bloodless battlefields of fearless expressionism.” Some people substitute “plains” for “battlefields” in misquoting Mac. Mac was a dog, a mutt, who hung out in Savie, one block down from Dot ave, on the corner of Belfort and Sagamore Streets . . .and he as a gentle dog and a fighting dog . . .I saw him go toe to toe, fang to fang with a big boxer . . .Mac stood right up on his hind legs, too, like boxers do . . .Mac drove the bigger dog off . . .Mac won . . . .(do dogs have fangs? If not, Mac fought tooth and claw, I mean tooth and paw, tooth and nail . . .I mean Mac fought with all he had.)

      Anyway, MS FREEH finally makes some sense. She doesn’t Howl, she doesn’t spin; she doesn’t Scream, no conspiracy theories, she’s not off-script, she simply streams sensibly, concretely, factually and true.

  7. No one can name a racist cop, lawyer, probation officer or judge in Norfolk County. There is no systematic racism in that county or Suffolk County..Here is a poem that cautions reading the useless newspapers.
    A Patch of Old Snow There is a patch of old snow in a corner
    That I should have guessed
    Was a blow away paper the rain
    Had brought to rest
    It is speckled with grime as if
    Small paint overspread it
    The news of the day I’ve forgotten
    If I ever read it

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