She asks why
read books about black people.
(I spare her the news she is black.)
She wants something different.
Her own book is written in pencil.
She painstakingly goes back & corrects
the misspelled words.
We write each day.
Each day the words look like
a retarded hand from Mars
Each day she asks me how
do you spell: didn't, tomorrow, done
husband, son, learning, went, gone . . .
I can't think of all the words she can't spell.
It's easier to think of what she can spell:
MY NAME IS CARMEN LOPEZ.
I am sorry I was out teacher.
My husband was sick.
You know I never miss school.
In that other program
I wasn't learning nothing.
Here, I'm learning so I come.
What's wrong with my husband?
I don't know. He's in the hospital. He's real sick
I was almost out of the room
when I hear the nurse ask him,
Do you do drugs?
He says yes.
I say what!
I don't know nuthin' 'bout no drugs.
I'm going off in the hospital.
Nobody tells you nuthin'!
I didn't hear that nurse
I wouldn't know
Condoms? No, teacher.
He's my husband.
I never been with another man.
I think he got AIDS
he still don't tell me.
I did teacher, I tried
to read the chart at the hospital
but I couldn't figure out those words.
Doctor don't say, he say privacy.
The nurse tell me.
She's Puerto Rican. She say your husband
I go off in the hospital.
Nobody tells me nuthin'.
He come home.
He say it's not true,
He's so skinny without his clothes
he try to hide hisself nekkid
don't want me to look.
I say you got to use
one of those things.
He say nuthin's wrong.
He stop sayin' that.
Now he just say he's gonna die
all the time
all the time
I say STOP that talk,
the doctor say you could
live a long time
my sister-in-law say,
he got it so you got it
it's like that.
I say, I don't got it,
my kids don't got it either.
Teacher, I need a letter for welfare
that I'm coming to school
on a regular basis.
He's in P.R.,
before that he started messing around
Over the Christmas holidays
That's where I was at
I'm fine. Yeah, I'm sure teacher.
What do I wanna do teacher?
I just wanna read some different
is the author of American Dreams, a collection of poetry, hailed
by Publishers Weekly as "one of the strongest debut collections
of the 90's." Her novel Push went on to receive the Black Caucus
of the American Library Associations First Novelist Award, The Book of
the Month Club's Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction, and in Great Britain
the Mind Book of the Year Award. Her novel Push was selected by
Timeout New York as one of the top ten books of 1996 and by The
Village Voice as one of the top 25 books of 1996. Her latest collection
of poetry, Black Wings & Blind Angels, was described by Poets
& Writers Magazine as "retaining Sapphire's incendiary power to
win hearts and singe minds." Sapphire currently lives in New York where
she is working on a new novel and a new collection of poetry.
with your comments.