Poetry Archive

Everywhere Is School In My Village

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

His mama trusted him with her 
purse.  He holds it above the stainless
steel counter.  Dwarfed by the cash 
register.  He is a big boy ordering 

fries.  Orange haired, red faced cashier 
shrugs shoulders, clacks gum, cheek 
muscles working and popping.
In her rolled-eye  imagination,  
you can almost see jungle bunnies 
frolic.  She asks him about size…
which he has to think about  

for a moment. 
Decisions are big. 
Big as he is. She rustles
as if to say, 
'hurry up, dirty picaninny.'

He decides.  Small.  
He is small at McDonald's.  
Nothing bigger than the fries,
he orders and processed 
just as quickly.

"That'll be a dollar," 
her hand lashes
millimeters below his nose 
before words have 
a chance to pass through 
the space between them. 

He opens his mama's purse. 
"I don't have a dollar," 
he whispers incredulously to himself.
Plaintive voice folding 
her hands into a loose fist. 

Her eyes dismiss him. 
"Next" already on her on her lips, 
her eyes meet mine above 
this six year old boy taking up 
her precious space and time. 

She does not speak child fluently.  
There is no dollar in his mama's purse.  
I ask the boy. “Got one with a ten 
on it?”  He shakes his head 
frowning.  There must be one hundred 
O's at the end of his slow “No.”  

He's frightened now.  She's tapping 
her fuschia claws. He understands.
No dollar means no fries
which means he wasn't big enough 
to come up to the counter 
all by himself. Which means 
he's not a very big boy after all.

He is a disappointment.  
This will not be a very happy meal.  
He looks in the purse again.  
Looks at me.   
His voices quivers. 

"I have one with a two and a zero. 
Twenty! Will that work?"  
An encouraging nod. 
A smile.  She gives him fries. 
He gives her an iceberg crisp bill.

He carefully cradles his fries.  
Hands guarding each golden sliver.  
He skips away.   She is more than ready 
to take my order.  I see new shoes dancing 
in her suppressed smirk. The fringe benefits
of ignorance.  This grease loving neighborhood
keeps her clubbing in consistent high

style. But, everywhere is school in my village.
I take up her time and space to teach  
this little brother about money.  
She will learn there are no free
shoes from ignorant brown boys. 

I step out of line, "Hey! 
Little brother, Can you help me out?"
He nods. Eager eyed.
"Tell the lady twenty minus one."
His brows furrow.  I try again, 
“What number comes before twenty?”
He is quick. 
"Nineteen," he pipes up.  

"Yes! Nineteen! " I tell her. 
Push back the ten and five 
she's already thrown on the counter. 
"Dollar bills," I stress.  
Sullenly, she counts 19 ones 
into his tiny hands.  

His eyes are big. 
Big as he is. 
He is getting a lot today.  
He's getting change.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy Raising Mothers, please consider making a one-time or recurring contribution to help us remain ad-free. If even a fraction of subscribers signed up to contribute $1 per month, Raising Mothers could be self-sustaining!

Support Raising Mothers

Filed under: Poetry Archive


Christina Springer is an Alt.Black artist who uses text, performance, video and other visual expressions. Cave Canem shaped her voice. Her fourth collection of poetry, The Splooge Factory, was released by Frayed Edge Press in November 2018. Currently finishing its cross country exhibition is Futuristic Relics & Motherboards Sacred: a collection of 75 paintings, fabric, mixed media objects and texts from the museum of our Black utopian womanist future. Springer resides in Pittsburgh where she home educates her son.