Meenakshi Mohan (Towards Visibility)

Meenakshi Mohan
 ALANA, A BLACK SWAN AMONG THE WHITE ONES

 

Alana, reticent, shy, and tense, was a black swan

among the white children. Miss Young, a new teacher

with her idealistic views: a black child is every child

thought she could easily win Alana’s confidence.

 

Alana would not speak or even look at her.

Was she being “white” impeding their relationship?

Her multicultural training took her only so far.

There was a whole ocean to dive into to learn.

 

During lunchtime, Johnny commented,

“Alana, you look like chocolate pudding.”

Miss Young froze. Johnny should not have made that comment.

But other children did not seem to mind.

 

Alana was the baby in the pretend play corner and blond Amy was the mother. Miss Young smiled. During the Discussion, the topic was the meaning of everyone’s names. “Alana means the most precious one,”

Miss Young explained. A shy smile peeked through Alana’s dimpled cheeks.

 

Miss Young read The Snowy Day. Peter, the Black child from the story,

became every child’s hero. The class ended with giggles,

laughter, and lots of chatting. Miss Young won a hug from Alana.

She smiled and knew she could make the class work.

 

Notes:

The Snowy Day – Picture book by Ezra Jack Keats

(An autobiographical book, White Teacher, by Vivian Gussin Paley, inspired this poetry.)

 

 

A PEARL IN MOLLUSK

 

Shirley, with misty eyes and a lump in her throat,

read a tear-soaked note on a piece of crumpled paper:

“They all came, tried to make me laugh, cry, and speak,

but left me with echoes in the blank of my life. Then you came

with your wonders and turned my tears into joy.”

Shirley read and read until her own tears-soaked Shannon’s note.

 

All schools rejected to take six-year-old Shannon as a student.

Her atrocious acts of hurting others hindered her admission to a regular school.

She came to Shirley’s severely retarded children’s class.

Shannon never spoke, shed tears, or laughed,

but she continued hurting other children, destroying property,

and not participating in any activities – all had given up except Shirley.

 

Shannon, abandoned by her teenage mother

and abused by her alcoholic father, had no future.

Shirley fought to reach out to bring the child back from her dark, tormented self.

She patiently guided her. She detected the spark of genius in those wild eyes.

One day after another horrifying act, Shannon asked,

“Are you going to whip me?” Shirley replied calmly, “No, I never do that.”

 

Finally, the day came -- Shannon broke down.

Shirley hugged her, both their tears mingling and soaking their clothes.

 

Shirley kissed Shannon’s drenched note, “You were my pearl in mollusk.”

 

Note:

(One Child by Torey L. Hayden inspired me to write this poem.)

 

Dr. Meenakshi Mohan is an editor, academic, art critic, children’s writer, painter, and poet. She has taught at universities in Chicago, Boston, and Towson, Maryland. Her book reviews, art critics, interviews, and poems regularly appear in different journals and anthologies, in addition to several books by her. She has been listed twice in the Who is Who Among American Teachers. She is solo exhibiting her paintings in Potomac Library, Maryland. She is on the Editorial Team for Inquiry in Education, a peer-reviewed journal published by National Louis University, Chicago, Illinois. She is serving as an advisory editor for Confluence, UK. She is a recipient of The Panorama International Literature Festival Award, 2022, and the Setu Bilingual Journal Award for Excellence for her Writings and Art, 2022. She has also been featured several times in the local journals in the Maryland area. www.meenakshimohan.com


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