A Poem I Like #1


A Poem I Like #1

excerpt from "Second Daughter's Second Day on Earth"

by Jacqueline Woodson

"....This is the way, my mother said,
of every baby’s hand.
I do not know if these hands will become
Malcolm’s—raised and fisted
or Martin’s—open and asking
or James’s—curled around a pen.
I do not know if these hands will be
or Ruby’s
gently gloved
and fiercely folded
calmly in a lap,
on a desk,
around a book,
To change the world
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I enjoy the intimacy here of first name basis with revolutionaries. Malcolm,
Martin, James, Rosa, Ruby. Each of these is a nondescript name, and
still they are undeniably distinct. Jacqueline Woodson draws on the
reader's context of the world of Black America, and in that way draws
near both the reader and our heroes.

When I read this excerpt I think about archetypes. As special as we
believe ourselves to be, humanity is far from new and it is incredibly
unchanging. Maybe that's good. Maybe that's bad. Perhaps it just is. To
that end it is inevitable that the people we become will resemble the
people who have come before us. Better yet, it is inevitable that the
kind of human being we aspire to be resembles an instance of human being
that has already passed---while we don't even know it. So I ask myself:
who do I aspire to become? Has he already existed? What was his name?
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