The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Friday


Looking for Omar
by E. Ethelbert Miller


I'm in the school bathroom
washing my hands without
soap but I'm still washing my hands.

I turn the water off
and look for a paper towel
but paper towels have been gone
since the first day of school
and it's June now.

I start to leave the bathroom
with my wet hands but then
the big boys come in talking
loud and cussing like they
rap stars or have new sneakers.

I hear the one named Pinto
talking about how someone
should get Omar after school
since he's the only Muslim they know.

Pinto talks with an accent
like he's new in the neighborhood too.

I don't have to ask him
what he's talking about
since everybody is talking
about the Towers and how they
ain't there no more.

My momma said it's like
a woman losing both
breasts to cancer and my daddy
was talking at the dinner table
about how senseless violence is
and Mrs. Gardner next door lost
two tall boys to drive-bys

Bullets flying into
both boys heads
making them crumble too.

Everybody around here is
filled with fear and craziness
and now Pinto and the big boys
thinking about doing something bad.

I stare at my wet hands
dripping water on my shoes
and wonder if I should run
and tell Omar or just run.

I feel like I'm trapped
in the middle of one of those
Bible stories but it ain't
Sunday.

I hear my Momma's voice
saying

Boy, always remember to wash
your hands but always remember
you can't wash your hands from
everything.


        Nashville, TN
        10/12/01


--------

My son's best friend is named Omar and while things weren't this bad post-9/11, they haven't really been good, either. (And we're in a very diverse area of suburban Washington, DC.) Anyway, things I learned at Back To School night: 1) I can no longer do algebra. 2) Nor do I remember what a trapezoidal prism is. 3) Wow, we didn't have field trips to Medieval Times when we were covering the Middle Ages in World Studies! 4) Nor did we have a forensics club. I did forensics as in speech team; this is forensics as in CSI. 5) The gym teachers, who have a line-by-line powerpoint presentation and read right off the screen, look and sound like cheerleaders and are the only ones who get done in their alloted ten minutes. 6) The weather unit is, coincidentally, starting with hurricanes. This has proved to be oddly fortiutous in terms of the ease of finding research materials. My son wants to do a science project on accuracy in weather prognostication and if he becomes a meteorologist I will always suspect Katrina was the cause. 7) When your reading teacher is due to have a baby in January, the schedule from that point forward will look like total chaos, particularly if there is no long-term sub available for the rest of the year. 8) It's easy to like a computer science teacher who admits that when he told his son he taught the kids BASIC, his son said, "Dad, you're a geek." 9) There's a tall ship, a spyglass and a compass on the cover of the Houghton Mifflin Explorations In History text. Sweet! 10) There are real advantages to having a Spanish teacher whose background is in teaching severely emotionally disturbed children.

I'm very tired just from hearing about how much work my son has to do and I don't even have to do the work. And I owe memeage. First off, I had to make one more muse_secrets postcard but this is not the Janeway/Chakotay postcard I meant to contribute: Oops. And second, both gblvr and ldybastet tagged me for the Twenty Random Facts meme:

1. I'm allergic to penicillin.
2. I'm named for my mother's father, Max.
3. I have my sun, moon and Venus in Sagittarius with Scorpio rising and Jupiter in Leo. Also I'm an ENTF, but I've found that my horoscope describes me about as accurately as my Myers Briggs designation does.
4. I look like my father's mother.
5. I own about 50 novels (not including nonfiction, just fiction) based on Arthurian legends.
6. I prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate, and I am perfectly happy with Hershey or Nestle -- it doesn't have to be expensive or high-quality.
7. In seventh grade I could recite the entire Periodic Table of Elements. Now I can recite through zinc but then I get confused.
8. Yankee Candle's pumpkin spice candles are pretty much my favorite scent in the world. It would be fallen leaves but sometimes they make me sneeze.
9. I have a lengthy, elaborate Aubrey/Maturin/Mary Sue story in my head that hinges on me being a singer. I wouldn't write it down even if someone offered to pay me, though.
10. William Shatner reminds me just a little bit of my father. On very rare occasion so does Jack Nicholson. I am not sure which is more disturbing.
11. I own more than 50 Tarot decks.
12. Sometimes I have fantasies about living in a really nice-looking house, but I am too damn lazy to make this happen.
13. I've had a miscarriage.
14. A very long time ago before I ever heard the phrase "RPF" I wrote some about Kate Mulgrew. Only about five people in the world have ever seen it (and no, don't even ask!)
15. For many years I desperately wanted to go to England. Now that I have been, I desperately want to go to France, Italy, Greece, Scandinavia, Tibet, etc.
16. I have five different Complete Works of Shakespeare. And I have at least ten Bibles. I have actually read most of all of them.
17. I weighed about 104 in high school. When I weighed 110 in college, my father called me "Chunk." When I later gained 40 pounds I could not see any difference because I thought of myself as someone who had always been overweight.
18. I really want to get a new digital camera with faster response and better lenses, but the only ones I'll be able to afford by my birthday won't be that much better than the ones I have now, so I feel like I should concentrate instead of learning to do more with the older ones. What I REALLY should do is take a traditional photography class but it was the darkroom time and expense that kept me away from photography for so long in the first place.
19. I also really want a PDF with more memory and a longer-lasting battery and Wi-Fi capability so I can write notes and look stuff up wherever I go, but I can't afford that either. Oh my god, I sound like my son talking about Furbys. I also REALLY want world peace, an end to hunger and poverty, a different administration in the White House and to stop being so shallow when I fill these things out.
20. Several months ago, I realized that an entire day had gone by in which I did not think once about a person with whom I had been obsessively in love for more than a decade who never really knew. I suppose I should think of this as progress, but it made me sad and nostalgic.

My other news for the day involves the fact that I cleared all the pregnancy and toddler-rearing books out of the basement to go with the giant collection for the Value Village Gulf collection -- someone in New Orleans surely lost theirs and I really, really hope never to need them again. The space on the shelf was immediately filled by my overflow Jewish history, herbal remedy, Goddess ritual and feminism-for-teens books, and the basement is just as much of a total disastrous nightmare of clutter as ever. I spent a lovely couple of hours with the aforementioned ldybastet and Regulus Black (Da Vinci's Notebook's "Enormous Penis" OMGROFL), watched "The Squire of Gothos" to review, wrote an obituary for Robert Wise and a thingie on the hype for Threshold, and missed BUllSHit while at the school. Feel no great loss about this.


Only in a middle school...


...does one get to see sights like this in the bathroom.
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