1
Language = POWER…
…Our words = Our POWER
How do we CHOOSE to fight?
7th Grade
English Language Arts

RESISTANCE
THROUGH POETRY
Name:
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
2
I Am Not My Hair by India.Arie
Little girl with the press and curl
Age eight I got a Jheri curl
Thirteen I got a relaxer
I was a source of so much laughter
At fifteen when it all broke off
Eighteen and went all natural
February two thousand and two
I went and did
What I had to do
Because it was time to change my life
To become the women that I am inside
Ninety-seven dreadlock all gone
I looked in the mirror
For the first time and saw that hey....
India.Arie, singer-songwriter, is a
Grammy-award winning artist. She
wrote “I Am Not My Hair” as a
message to her fans that women should
not be defined by their looks. She
explained that, “"As a Black American
woman, a lot of your integrity is
dictated by how you wear your hair,"
she explains. "The concept for the song
was sparked when I decided to cut my
locks, and all the different attitudes
people had about it. This is my hair and it's my life. I'll choose how I
express myself."
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within
Good hair means curls and waves
Bad hair means you look like a slave
At the turn of the century
Its time for us to redefine who we be
You can shave it off
Like a South African beauty
Or get in on lock
Like Bob Marley
You can rock it straight
Like Oprah Winfrey
If its not what's on your head
Its what's underneath and say hey…
Does the way I wear my hair make me a better person?
Does the way I wear my hair make me a better friend?
Does the way I wear my hair determine my integrity?
I am expressing my creativity.
Breast Cancer and Chemotherapy
Took away her crown and glory
She promised God if she was to survive
She would enjoy everyday of her life ooh
On national television
Her diamond eyes are sparkling
Bald headed like a full moon shining
Singing out to the whole wide world
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
Questions to Consider:
1. What is the THEME of India
Arie’s song, “I Am Not My
Hair?”
2. What do you think hair
symbolizes for India Arie?
3. What do you think skin
symbolizes for India?
4. Define Integrity.
5. What did India have to do
before she came to her
understanding about her hair?
6. What is “her crown and glory”
in the last stanza?
3
Power by Audre Lorde
The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being
ready to kill
yourself
instead of your children.
I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.
Audre Lorde, Caribbean
American poet, writer, and
activist, was a self-described
“black, lesbian, mother, warrior,
poet.” Born in New York City,
Lorde writes primarily about
conflicts in difference and
multiculturalism. Lorde
challenged feminism to include the
experiences of women of color,
confronting racism within the
primarily white movement.
The policeman who shot down a 10-year-old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
and a voice said "Die" and
there are tapes to prove that. At his trial
this policeman and in his own defense
"I didn’t notice the size or nothing else
only the color." and
there are tapes to prove that, too.
Today that 37-year-old white man with 13 years of police forcing
has been set free
by 11 white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one black man who said
"They convinced me" meaning
they had dragged her 4’10" black woman’s frame
over the hot coals of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.
I have not been able to touch the destruction within me.
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85-year-old white woman
who is somebody’s mother
and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be singing in 3⁄4 time
"Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are."
Questions to Consider:
1. Name two different places the events in the
poem take place.
2. What is the mood of this poem? Support your
answer with details from the poem.
3. Define rhetoric.
4. Why is the poem titled “Power”?
5. What do the following lines symbolize: “corrupt
as poisonous mold/ or lie limp and useless as an
unconnected wire”
6. What is one reason that “desert” is an effective
setting to evoke?
7. What does the 37-year old white policeman
symbolize?
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
MOTHER TO SON by Langston Hughes
Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor
- - - Bare.
But all the time
I'se been a - climbin' on
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you find it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now - - For I'se still goin' honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967)
was a prominent figure in the
Harlem Renaissance, a cultural
movement that challenged racism
through literature, art, and music.
His poems, plays, and stories
frequently focused on the African
American experience, particularly
on the struggles and feelings of
individuals.
Questions to Consider:
1. Draw this poem as it is represented to you.
2. What message is the mother trying to get across to her son?
3. What does the crystal stair represent?
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
4
5
I'm Mexican, Chicana, y Tejana by Marybel Louise Ortega
I'm all of the above,
I worship Dios and pray to the Virgen,
I live my life as everyone should,
Todos they put us down because we are brown,
Y no nos dejan en pas,
They say we should stay in the fields,
Like all we do is piscar vegetables,
Working in the fields should make us proud,
We work hard not to let out familias down,
Our traditions we keep to show our culture,
and our familias we raise to be respectful,
Our familias stick together like glue,
and never turn their backs on each other,
Our origins are from great people,
Los indigenos son nuestros ancestors,
Ellos eran fuertos and smart,
They made us who we are,
Though we originate from Mexico,
Todavia somos Americans,
They won't take away our lives and the land we got,
Eso no se vale we’re not different by a lot,
We are important to this land,
People no pueden ver nuestra importancia because they chose not to,
We show them everyday we are strong,
Y they think que nos pueden controlar,
The battle has surely ended,
Pero la guerra is about to start,
We won't stop till we’re the ones with the freedom and the rights,
Y no nos paramos till we win this fight,
I'ma tell you now that I won't give up,
and we won't let our lives get all messed-up,
Me and my familia are proud to be Mexican,
because being who I really am means I know I can.
Questions to consider:
1.
2.
3.
4.
Why does this author choose to use Spanish and English together in this poem?
What are some themes of this poem?
What does the author mean by “because being who I really am means I know I can.”
Is it possible to have more than one identity? The author is Mexican, Chicana, and Tejana. What
identities are you?
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
6
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
7
Untitled by Sanjana Bijlani
Performed: February 23, 2012 at CalSLAM Grand Slam Finals
**CalSLAM is the UC Berkeley spoken word poetry organization, and the Grand Slam Finals were
to decide which 5 members moved on to CUPSI, the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational, a
national college competition.
There is an unspoken rule that hung heavy
In the hallways of my high school,
Weighing down our heads,
As we passed each other again and again.
We looked like different kinds of same,
Our hands were likened to coffee cups our friends carried
Brimming with chai teas, ginger mochas, and caramel lattes,
The saccharine stab of untold stories still wedged in our memories,
We released our necks to hang like broken toy soldiers,
Only raising them, when the final bell sounded.
We walked by each other, passing for forgotten friends,
Or maybe just lost brothers and sisters.
Released into the parking lot like songbirds
The radios came alive in the afternoon sun,
With songs that never told our stories,
But had words that sounded more honest
Than any I ever said.
You see, I walked through hallways,
I folded my stories into letters I stored in my voice box,
Placed it on top of a moving train,
The one I used to take to get to my grandparents’ house,
The one that pulses through my veins
Asking me when I’ll catch the next one home,
Back to the beginning,
So I may understand how I got so lost.
I came here with a smile on my face,
With a smile on my face, an embrace in arms, trying to forget
That I cried at the end of a dance when
A boy wouldn’t come near me,
Afraid of my color running outside the lines,
Staining the white fences of his arms held away from me.
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
8
I came here thinking something would change,
But I still roam around in circles,
Hoping to find someone who will look at me,
Burning coals in back of their eyes,
Whispers escaping their lips, like the last breath of fire,
They know the sound of shame ringing every time I say my name.
When I introduce myself,
I remember the way my parents
Used to sing me to sleep with melodies falling from their
teeth,
Like honey and promises, my mother stayed up to watch
The night give rise to a girl,
Every day, believing in sweetness and trust,
That this world is hers.
It doesn’t belong to me,
Not when I keep my head hung low,
My voice a little lower,
It took me seven years to find the pieces of the mirror
I broke, when I first changed my name
To fit tongues slithering to spit out seven letters
Never second-guessing if this is the way they fit together.
Sanjana Bijlani is a sophomore
studying English and French at UC
Berkeley, where she writes and
performs poetry as a way of creating
community and finding new ways to
stay rooted in the idea of home. Home
is always changing but she finds it on
stage, in writing workshops, and in the
company of friends and family. She
believes in the strength of words to
bring together communities and offer
validation of our identities and
experiences. For Sanjana, writing
poetry is about learning to love
completely and wholly, with no shame.
She believes that we can use our words
to offer ourselves the ultimate
affirmation of who we are.
We were supposed to find each other
In cafeteria crowds, see the same loneliness
In mashed potatoes that don’t have enough spice,
Laugh at the way our voices slow down where others’ speed up,
We grow tired of running from the sounds
Of those who came before us.
But there is no familiarity in the way
You pour the tea in your hands over mine,
Waiting to see if it will darken my skin,
Because my parents loved across state lines,
Found each other in a crowded classroom,
Stayed together because they loved in a world of rainbows,
They chose colors like love, fear, loss,
Held together with hope and a light breeze.
On those nights I tried to wash away your inquisition of my skin,
I heard my grandmother’s voice sparking through
Telephone lines that run alongside the trains in my veins,
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
Questions to Consider:
1. Why does Bijlani write?
2. Who is this poem intended
for?
3. What is the “unspoken” rule in
the first stanza?
9
The complexion of love is always changing.
I have been waiting to see what that that looks like,
One day I hope to look up
And see you standing there, long after the final bell sounds.
Come talk to me, together we can remember
What we have always known.
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
Strange Fruit by Lewis Allen
10
Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
Strange Fruit is a metaphor for the many, many hangings (or lynchings) that occurred in the south prior to the 1930s.
White men would hang black men, women, and children because of their race.
Questions to Consider:
1. What words in this poem hint at the fact that “fruit” is really a human body?
2. What is Lewis saying about these hangings?
3. Why is the fruit strange?
4. Why is this poem set in the “southern breeze”?
The song “Strange Fruit,” most famously performed by
black jazz singer Billie Holiday, was penned by a Jewish
teacher named Abel Meeropol (professional name Lewis
Allen) from the Bronx. The song exposes racism in the
United States, particularly the lynching of AfricanAmericans in the South. In 1999, TIME Magazine called
it the “song of the century.”
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
11
I Cry
by Tupac Shakur
Sometimes when I'm alone
I Cry,
Cause I am on my own.
The tears I cry are bitter and warm.
They flow with life but take no form
I Cry because my heart is torn.
I find it difficult to carry on.
If I had an ear to confiding,
I would cry among my treasured friend,
but who do you know that stops that long,
to help another carry on.
The world moves fast and it would rather pass by.
Then to stop and see what makes one cry,
so painful and sad.
And sometimes...
I Cry
and no one cares about why.
In The Depths of Solitude
by Tupac Shakur
The Rose that Grew from Concrete
by Tupac Shakur
Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature's law is wrong it learned to walk with out having feet. Funny it seems, but by keeping it's dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.
California-born American actor and rapper
Tupac Shakur wrote frequently about
violence and hardship in inner cities, racism,
social problems, and conflicts with other
rappers. Influenced by the highly political
rap of the 1980s, Tupac became one of the
first socially conscious rappers from the
West Coast.
i exist in the depths of solitude
pondering my true goal
trying 2 find peace of mind
and still preserve my soul
constantly yearning 2 be accepted
and from all receive respect
never comprising but sometimes risky
and that is my only regret
a young heart with an old soul
how can there be peace
how can i be in the depths of solitude
when there r 2 inside of me
this duo within me causes
the perfect oppurtunity
2 learn and live twice as fast
as those who accept simplicity
Questions to Consider:
1. Why do think it’s interesting that a rapper admits that
he cries?
2. What “duo” is Tupac struggling with?
3. What does Tupac mean when he says “peace of mind”?
4. Why does no one care that Tupac—a man from the
ghettos of Cali—cries?
5. What does “a rose that grew from concrete” represent?
6. What theme do all three poems convey?
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
12
To live in the borderlands by Gloria Anzaldúa
To live in the borderlands means you
are neither hispana india negra española
ni gabacha, eres mestiza, mulata, half-breed
caught in the crossfire between camps while carrying all
five races on your back
not knowing which side to turn to, run from;
To live in the Borderlands means knowing
that the india in you, betrayed for 500 years,
is no longer speaking to you,
that mexicanas call you rajetas,
that denying the Anglo inside you
is as bad as having denied the Indian or Black;
Cuando vives en la frontera
people walk through you, wind steals your voice,
you're a burra, buey, scapegoat
forerunner of a new race,
half and half--both woman and man, neither-a new gender;
Gloria Anzaldúa was born in the
Rio Grande Valley, Texas, in
1942. She wrote primarily about
her experiences in the
“borderlands” as a bilingual, bicultural woman. She was a
leading scholar in the field of
Chicano studies and women’s
studies. As an author, poet, and
activist, Anzaldúa radically shifted
the educational landscape of the
United States.
To live in the Borderlands means to
put chile in the borscht
eat whole wheat tortillas,
speak Tex-Mex with a Brooklyn accent;
be stopped by la migra at the border check points;
Living in the Borderlands means you fight hard to
resist the gold elixir beckoning from the bottle,
the pull of the gun barrel,
the rope crushing the hollow of your throat;
In the Borderlands
you are the battleground
where enemies are kin to each other;
you are at home, a stranger,
the border disputes have been settled
the volley of shots have shattered the truce
you are wounded, lost in action
dead, fighting back;
To live in the Borderlands means
the mill with the razor white teeth wants to shred off
your olive-red skin, crush out the kernel, your heart
pound you pinch you roll you out
smelling like white bread but dead;
Questions to Consider:
1. Why does the author write in both Spanish and
English?
2. What are some of the “borderlands” in this poem
(besides the physical border between Mexico and the
US)?
3. Does this poem connect to your experience of living in
the Valley?
4. Define “the borderlands” as Anzaldúa describes it.
To survive in the Borderlands
you must live sin fronteras
be a crossroads.
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
13
West LA Downtown by Erik L.
Standing outside, hearing sirens pass by
The sounds of children playing, their laughter which you
could hear around the block. The smell of the air, the
shattered glass from last night’s beer bottles.
Pictures of innocent people.
At night you can see the candles glimmering
from far down the block.
Graffiti on the wall, one writing over the other one
trying to claim its turf.
Abandoned homes where homeless people sleep.
This is my community
Or should I call it a Graveyard?
Parents looking at me walking down the street,
destroying my own community.
I can change all this if I myself change.
There’s another side of me, a happy teenager,
seeking for a better future
not only for me but for my family.
I’m a smart, wise boy I just choose the wrong choices.
Lord Take These Shackles Off Of Me by Aikili M.
Lord, take these shackles off of me
I’m in camp when I wanna be free
People wanna take advantage of me
So lord take the shackles off of me
I’m locked up, my girl is missin’ me
No communication but the letters she getting from me
That ain’t enough, I just wish my PO could see
That he’s takin’ all of what’s left of me
I’m 18 and they took me off the streets
Now my next step is the penitentiary
And that’s a life I don’t wanna see
So I ask Lord, take ‘em off of me
Questions to Consider:
1. Name the tone in each poem, and explain how you
know.
2. How does Erik L. see himself?
3. Why does Aikili M. repeat “Lord take these shacks off of
me”?
4. Why does Cesar A. write a poem to his father, who will
never read his writing?
5. What does it mean to be a father?
To My So Called Dad by Cesar A.
I guess you were never really there to watch me grow up
But yet you had time to always be locked up
We didn’t ever get to spend a full day together
like father and son
Cause all you ever cared about
was pulling the trigger to your gun
I can’t tell you how much I hate you
for not being with me and my mom when we needed you
Oh and hey, I just want to tell you congratulations
you’re about to be a grandfather
even though you never showed me
how a man is supposed to grow up and be a father
I remember staying up at night
waiting for my mom to come home
It was like she never had a chance
to spend time with me cause of her job
But unlike you, she didn’t ever make me feel unloved
Mom, unlike you, each and every chance she got she
would spend time with me
She even bought me the bike you promised to buy me
My mom’s love was one of a kind
It made me happy and alive all in my mind
I guess I hate you
for making my mom struggle day and night
You weren’t there to tell me what was wrong and right
You were just there as a sign of hatred against my dad
I got into boxing to keep me busy and let my anger out
‘cause I was afraid of physically hurting someone the way
you mentally hurt me
I’m about to turn seventeen but yet you never called me
to say happy birthday
Aikili M., Erik L., and Cesar A. were three of
Ms. Wai’s students in Camp AfflerblaughPaige, a boys’ probation camp in East Los
Angeles through a program called Borrowed
Voices. She taught slam poetry to middleschool and high-school age boys. These poems
were part of the final publication, the result of
a semester’s long work.
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
14
Still I Rise
by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Maya Angelou, born April 4, 1928 as Marguerite Johnson
in St. Louis, was raised in segregated rural Arkansas. She
is a poet, historian, author, actress, playwright, civil-rights
activist, producer and director. Popular themes in her
writing include racism and civil rights. She actively
advocates for Africans, African-Americans, and women all
around the country through spoken word.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Questions to Consider:
1. Describe the tone of this poem, and justify your
answer.
2. Why does Angelou repeat “I rise”?
3. Who is the speaker of this poem (or rather, who does
the “I” represent)?
4. Who is the audience of this poem (who is the “you” in
this poem)?
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
Untitled by Adriel Luis, aka subSCRYBE
no id
what am i?
can somebody please tell me what i am?
am i asian or man or a combination?
i glare in the mirror and picture a figure of vibrancy beyond comprehension
and by extension
just a guy with a lot to say
which is irrelevant
since whatever i utter will just be followed by the question
WOW! CAN YOU SAY THAT IN CHINESE TOO???
as much as i struggle to reveal my true self to you
unfortunately all attempts to model the image of myself as a man up til now
have been tainted with the stereotypes i’ve been brandished with
so don’t act so confused when i ask
what am i?
because society has lied to me and blinded me
to the point where the 9-digit label it cursed upon me
once convinced me that i actually had
social security
and i was convinced that since i was
spawned from american soil
nourished by american resources and
taught in american institutions
that american racism would never bear its ugly head
to bring down
what it brought up
because i was so convinced that
that made no sense
and i was convinced that everyone knew that
that made no sense
but see, i’ve learned since then
i learned since then that i wasn’t’ just another kid with the loose teeth
but instead i’m a crude geek that’s unique
i’ve learned that
though i have a defined skin tone
in this world it seems it’s my skin tone that defines me
but most of all
i’ve learned to be angry because of that
sadly i have this fury instilled within the very depths of my being
that I even have to prove myself to you
to get beyond your illusions of dropkicks and chopsticks
to make my true self seen with even a hint of logic
and you need to realize that though
my eyes are slanted and half-closed
i see your prejudice crystal clear
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
15
so now
even though I’m aware of what you mean when you ask
WHAT AM I?
I choose not to feed your prying curiosity
so
what am i?
i’m the epitome of the very reason
you find it necessary to water down my rich culture in your
melting pot
so don’t get mad at me because i choose to be that crazy
yellow-skinned nightmare admist your amerikan dream.
after all
i’m just trying to answer your question
And i’m having a hell of a time doing it
16
Questions to Consider:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Why does Luis write “i” in lower-case form (and sometimes in upper-case form)?
Who is Luis addressing in this poem? (Who is the “you” in this poem?)
What do you think it means to be “a man”?
How does the audience see Luis? How does this differ from how Luis sees himself?
The poem addresses issues that face the Asian-American community, but what themes in this poem
connect to your own life or your own experiences?
6. What does Luis mean in the last two lines when he says “i’m just trying to answer your question / and i’m
having a hell of a time doing it”?
7. Does this poem effectively convey Luis’ message?
Adriel Luis, aka subSCRYBE, is a writer,
spoken word artist, and graphic designer
from Northern California. He frequently
writes about racism from an AsianAmerican perspective. He blogs for the
popular progressive site, change.org,
advocating for racial equality,
educational reform, and human rights.
Luis also helped found the spoken word
youth group called iLL-Literacy.
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
It Happened in Montgomery
(for Rosa Parks)
by Phil W. Petrie
17
Then he slammed on the brakes—
Turned around and grumbled.
But she was tired that day.
Weariness was in her bones.
And so the thing she’s done yesterday,
And yesteryear,
On her workdays,
Churchdays,
Nothing-to-do-I’ll-go-and-visit
Sister Annie Days—
She felt she’d never do again.
And he growled once more.
So she said:
“No sir…I’m stayin right here.”
And he gruffly grabbed her,
Pulled and pushed her—
Then sharply shoved her through the doors.
The news slushed through the littered streets
Slipped into the crowded churches,
Slimmered onto the unmagnolied side of town.
While the men talked and talked and talked.
She—
Who was tired that day,
Cried and sobbed that she was
glad she’d done it.
That her soul was satisfied.
That Lord knows,
A little walkin’ never hurt anybody;
That in one of those unplanned, unexpected
Unadorned moments—
A weary woman turned the page
of History.
Questions to Consider:
1. What is this poem about?
2. Does this story differ from other accounts
you’ve heard? Why or why not?
3. Why does Petrie capitalize the “H” in
“History” (last line)?
4. Why do you think Petrie wrote this
poem?
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
Phil W. Petrie is a
freelance writer and
former book publishing
editor. He lives in
Clarksville, Tennessee,
and has written articles for
numerous publications,
including Black Enterprise
and The New Crisis.
18
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Questions to Consider:
1. What is the main message of this poem?
2. What does the “sigh” tell you, the reader,
about how the speaker feels?
3. What do the “two roads” symbolize?
Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim Because it was grassy and wanted wear, Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I marked the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost (1874 – 1963) was one of
America’s most popular twentiethcentury poets. For much of his life, he
lived on a farm in New Hampshire and
wrote poems about farm life and the
New England landscape. His
apparently simple poems, however,
have many layers of meaning.
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
19
Oranges by Gary Soto
The first time I walked
With a girl, I was twelve,
Cold, and weighted down
With two oranges in my jacket.
December. Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porch light burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.
A dog barked at me, until
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rouge. I smiled,
Touched her shoulder, and led
Her down the street, across
A used car lot and a line
Of newly planted trees,
Until we were breathing
Before a drugstore. We
Entered, the tiny bell
Bringing a saleslady
Down a narrow aisle of goods.
I turned to the candies
Tiered like bleachers,
And asked what she wanted Light in her eyes, a smile
Starting at the corners
Of her mouth. I fingered
A nickel in my pocket,
And when she lifted a chocolate
That cost a dime,
I didn’t say anything.
I took the nickel from
My pocket, then an orange,
And set them quietly on
The counter. When I looked up,
The lady’s eyes met mine,
And held them, knowing
Very well what it was all
About.
Outside,
A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.
I took my girl’s hand
In mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands.
Questions to Consider:
1. What is the symbolic meaning of oranges in this
poem?
2. What is the mood of this poem?
3. What does Soto mean when he writes, “I was
making a fire in my hands”?
4. Does this poem remind you of any of your
experiences?
5. Why do you think Soto writes about such a
seemingly simple experience?
Gary Soto was born in Fresno, California, in April, 1952,
to working-class Mexican-American parents. At a young
age, he worked in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley. He
was not academically motivated as a child, but became
interested in poetry during his high school years. He
writes primarily about the daily experiences of Chicanos,
and has won several awards. His influences include
Pablo Neruda and Robert Frost.
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.
20
United Fruit Company by Pablo Neruda
Translation by John Mitchell
When the trumpet sounded,
everything was prepared on the earth
and Jehovah parceled out the world
to Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other corporations.
the United Fruit Company
reserved for itself the most juicy,
piece, the central coast of my land,
the delicate waist of America.
It rebaptized these lands
Banana Republics,
And over the sleeping dead,
over the unquiet heroes,
who won greatness,
liberty, and banners,
it established an opera buffa:
it abolished free will,
gave out imperial crowns,
encouraged envy, attracted
the dictatorship of the flies:
Trujillo flies, Tacho flies,
Carías flies, Martínez flies,
Ubico flies, flies sticky with
Submissive blood and marmalade
drunken flies that buzz over
the tombs of the people,
circus flies, wise flies
expert at tyranny.
With the bloody flies,
came the Fruit Company,
amassed coffee and the fruits,
in ships which put to sea like
overloaded trays with the treasures
from our sunken lands.
Meanwhile the Indians fall
into the sugared depths of the
harbors and are buried in the
morning mists;
a corpse rolls, a thing without
name, a discarded number,
a bunch of rotten fruit
thrown on the garbage heap.
Original
Cuando sonó la trompeta, estuvo
todo preparado en la tierra,
y Jehova repartió el mundo
a Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, y otras entidades:
la Compañía Frutera Inc.
se reservó lo más jugoso,
la costa central de mi tierra,
la dulce cintura de América.
Bautizó de nuevo sus tierras
como "Repúblicas Bananas,"
y sobre los muertos dormidos,
sobre los héroes inquietos
que conquistaron la grandeza,
la libertad y las banderas,
estableció la ópera bufa:
enajenó los albedríos
regaló coronas de César,
desenvainó la envidia, atrajo
la dictadora de las moscas,
moscas Trujillos, moscas Tachos,
moscas Carías, moscas Martínez,
moscas Ubico, moscas húmedas
de sangre humilde y mermelada,
moscas borrachas que zumban
sobre las tumbas populares,
moscas de circo, sabias moscas
entendidas en tiranía.
Entre las moscas sanguinarias
la Frutera desembarca,
arrasando el café y las frutas,
en sus barcos que deslizaron como
bandejas el tesoro
de nuestras tierras sumergidas.
Questions to Consider:
1. Why does Neruda write
this poem?
2. Trujillo, Tacho, Carías,
Martínez, and Ubico were
all Latin American
dictators supported by the
American government,
who profited off of their
rule. Why does Neruda
call them “flies”?
3. What is the tone of this
poem?
5. Do you think the
translation is accurate?
What meaning gets lost
between the original (in
Spanish) and the
translation (in English)?
Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was deeply involved in politics and the fight for
social justice and equality. He wrote “United Fruit Company” in 1950 to bring
attention to current political issues. The poem’s purpose was to bring attention
to injustices brought upon the native populations of Central and South America
We will use our
POWER
not of
weapons.
that
wereasatools,
result
American companies (and the U.S. government with the
help of the CIA) and dictators throughout the region who exploited their labor
and forcefully suppressed democratic movements.
21
Mientras tanto, por los abismos
azucarados de los puertos,
caían indios sepultados
en el vapor de la mañana:
un cuerpo rueda, una cosa
sin nombre, un número caído,
un racimo de fruta muerta
derramada en el pudridero.
We will use our POWER as tools, not weapons.