Poem in response to No Poverty
By Jenny Li
Photo Credit: Wix.com
Inspired by "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens
Among twenty sleeping campesinos,
The only thing moving
Was the pencil of a girl.
She was of three truths
Like a notebook
In which there are three rings.
The girl grew in a wooden shack.
It was a small part of the earth.
A row of crates and a migrant farmer
A dream, an education, and a campesino child
She does not know which to prefer,
The beauty of her father’s strong shoulders
Or the beauty of Huckleberry Finn,
The whistle ending the work day
Or just after.
The girl filled the small table
With her notebooks.
Her mother’s bent back
Ached in the negative space of bushels.
The shadow of her mother loomed over the stove
Like blackbirds circling the field.
O thin walls of the school,
Why do you imagine flaxen-haired boys?
Do you not see how the girl
Writes with the hand
Of the scholars about you?
She knows Shakespeare’s sonnets
And the beautiful Pythagorean Theorem;
But she knows, too,
That the camp
Has taught her what she knows.
When her learning expands beyond the perimeters of the farm,
The girl marks the end
Of one of many cycles.
At the sight of the calloused hands
Tending to the brown earth,
Even the hardened campesino
Would cry out sharply.
She walked across the tilled soil
In a wide-brimmed hat.
Once, a fear pierced her,
In that she mistook
The shadow of her ancestors
For her own fate.
The migrant worker is moving.
The harvest must be ready for picking.
It was picking season all summer long.
The girl was growing
And she will continue to grow.
The open notebook sat
In-between rows of corn.