107. Schoolyard: Revelation

“What you got?
Here’s mine–” James,
Showing a bean sandwich,
Eyed with mild distaste
The brown mash, bread.
Barker fished his
Lunch out, wrapped in
Paper in his pants.
Left an oily
Stain on his behind.
Got no pail, thought James.
Barker’s slice of fatback:
Wiping newsprint
Off, he gnawed a piece. James,
Tired of beans: “Swap?”

Barker’s hand out,
Then he touched his
Chest. Hands,
Sandwiched on each
Other, pressed his lips.
“What?”
Barker’s signs, repeated.
“What? What say?”
Two boys nearby
Wriggled fingers, mocking.
James blushed, and he
Rose to walk away. Barker,
In disgust,
Snatched James’ pencil
Outright from his shirt,
Picked up his lunch wrapping
And wrote down:
“I said OK, give me
Sandwich, stupid.”

Like an
Idiot, James stared:
Of course.
Of course!
Barker could not
Speak, but he could
Write!
James was
Boggled: why had
He not thought?
Pencil!
Pencil was for
Numbers–writing
With it you could
Cipher–and for
Tests and answers: Eugene,
Oregon. James reeled–
Austin, Texas.
Pierre, South?–Dakota–
St. Paul–James blinked,
Punchy. Pencils
Were for teachers,
Too, to write you back:
“Fine work, James.” Or
“You must study,
James. Apply
Yourself.” But this!
He and Barker,
They could write each
Other! Sure!

“You deaf?” Barker
Penciled, stung to
Eloquence.
Startled, James quick
Handed off his sandwich, lunch
Forgot. Eyes glued to
That: “give me sandwich….”
James glanced up
Afraid. Had someone
Spied?
He clutched Barker’s
Note as if a map,
Left by pirates
For him and his friend.
Then–James, struck,
Again! He could learn
All the signs! James
Saw it in
A flash: Barker,
He could show James
Signs, then write them down!
James could learn them–
No more guessing, pointing….
“Barker!
Teach me all the signs,
Okay? This week.”
James thought: I will
Be an Injun king.
Kids would sit
Enchanted at his feet.
“Wow!” James leapt up,
Racing round the yard,
Batting his hand
On the slatted fence,
Flying madman.

Classmates playing,
Tossing balls and
Tagging, paid no mind.
One girl had jumped
Rope two hundred times.
Without pause she
Switched to doubles now.
Her streaked socks and
Shoes pounded the dust.
Above earth she
Blurred, a yellow cloud.
Meanwhile crowds of
Children pushed in close,
Counting out in
Rhythm a rhymed chant.
James sped by.

Barker watched him,
Scowling. He’d stopped
Eating. Signed:
          BOY,
          YOU STOP RUNNING
          YOU. YOU COME BACK
          YOU.
James was laughing,
Leaping.

          YOU NOT SO SMART
          YOU. SIGNS,
          ENGLISH, DIFFERENT.
          HARD.
James ran
Round the yard.

Fuming, Barker
Snatched a scrap of
Paper, dashed a note:
“Shoot!
Don’t need your bean
Sandwich anyhow!”

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