My inspiration for this poem is three-fold–A revisionist history prompt from Amy Kay, today’s #Verselove prompt, and the 2-Day Poetry Contest, where we have to use ten words and write a poem in two days. This year’s words, which some of them undoubtedly stick out like sore thumbs in my poem, are:
quiz, squirrels, concatenate, set, phosphenes, clasp,
abyssalpelagic, brisk, syzygy, and gadding.
George Washington Carver Goes Back to Iowa in 2023
He didn’t learn the grave import of “1619,”
but he knew McGuffey readers and slates
and slavery. Enslavers killed his mama.
Today’s children have a place to learn
the truth about human enslavement.
And those colors on the murals—
so bold, so brisk, so bright!
The artist shows him modern acrylic paints;
and he longs to clasp and squeeze each tube.
Iowa’s premier middle grade STEM
magnet school has his name out front.
Dozens of Black and brown-skinned children
greet him. He closes his eyes and rubs them,
the phosphenes fire-worked behind his eyes,
deep recesses of memory appeared.
“Where there is no vision, there is no hope.”
he reads over the door of a science room at Simpson College,
where he sees his name on a plaque (And on a building.)
Students set about to quiz the professor
on life and learnings of the 19th century.
Differences between then and now
are immeasurable. Cars? Computers? And NO polio?
The contrasts seem as wide as the space between
the abyssalpelagic depths and the intergalactic reaches
of infinity and beyond. Ah, but the squirrels!
The squirrels gadding about on the grounds
at Iowa State make him smile; they are the same.
What brought him here? What science?
What magic had to transpire to concatenate
systems to form this bewitching syzygy?
In any case, maybe tomorrow
he’ll take the bus to Diamond Grove,
where he grew up with Moses and Susan.
He heard about a National Monument there.
Then he’ll go on to Tuskegee, Alabama,
and spend time in the farm classrooms
and catch up on history.