Wednesday, February 20, 2013

the stripes of zebras

photo by LWY

white on black,
       or black on white
there is an answer
       but does it matter?

my son sits a bench, over looking
the book in his lap, at a small child
& mother
             in the kid's section
of Barnes & Noble

unnoticing i've noticed him,
his eyes follow them, then the child,
much smaller than him, his face creases
smile to straight again & again
like joy twitches, as the little one
s t u m b l e s,

just learning to walk & grabby hands,
a mind all their own, knock over
anything they contact

'what?!'
he catches me
& i want

to ask what he sees, himself
perhaps, what rings the register
along the cortex & what next---
at what line he would flinch, prejudice
slipping in, where'd he learn that?

'nothing,
(everything) just
watching.'

on the kiosk, zebras dance
the front of a book, black on white,
white on black,
                  the only grey
on the bottom of their hooves.

written for Poetry Jam

67 comments:

the walking man said...

HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

the walking man said...

Yes where does prejudgement on anythng including the color of a person's skin. It is a learned trait and not one generally taught in schools anymore (that pretty much was dead by the 1980's) it is the parents and grandparents who did not and were not able to keep segregation alive.

When the teachings in their homes dies out then they white and black stripes on the Zebra's hide become more than just something to mount on the wall or walk over in front of a fire place.

Even counting the first time in 1995 when a clerical error screwed them up it took Alabama 130 years to legally end slavery. That is about how long it will take to end racism in America from this day.

Vodka Mom said...

"the only grey....on the bottom of their hooves."


love

Manicddaily said...

Yes - really interesting questions. Everything is somewhat different now, a lot the same too though. I can see your little son's face smiling. k.

Mary said...

Actually young children do not notice/ pay attention to the color of anyone's skin. I have had examples of this again and again with my grandchildren. It doesn't matter to children any more than the color of someone's t-shirt...if they notice at all.

And as far as zebras go, I have recently read about them..LOL. It is said that the base color of the zebra is black & the stripes are white.

I enjoyed your poem, Brian.

Mark said...

I think though the world needs more grey. Not everything is black and white. Mostly zebras and badgers.

CiCi said...

Observing without him knowing is interesting, he doesn't give you much time for that though, right?
I was one of those children who did not notice race or color, not very observant but on the other hand I did not grow up with separation. We all have grey on the bottoms of our hooves.

Daniel said...

Interesting observations here. I carry some things within me that I don't know where I took possession of them.

DJan said...

It is an interesting thought, that looking inside the head of our offspring, wondering when those things begin to take shape. :-)

Pat Hatt said...

With your gawk at play
You captured another moment in the day
And such black and white
Such be pffted into the night
Unless of course you're Pat
And have that zebra thingy at your mat haha

Brian Miller said...

djan, that is exactly what i was thinking...and its an echo of the piece i wrote last week about the boy i am working with at school who 'was racist'...still processing that, as i was in watching my own boy and wondering what it would take and where it would come from...

Jenny said...

I often try to imagine what a young child sees, thinks..wonderful how everyone is the same color to them...Great when a writer draws you with-in the lines...thank you Brian for another moment of reflection.

Laurie Kolp said...

Kids see all the same... it's what they learn that taints there view. I love this, Brian... especially the ending.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I really like this. It's sad knowing that race is entirely a social contruct...it's taught. no child is born racist, it's entirely learned behavior. Therefore it can only be eliminated through educating young minds...

Betsy Brock said...

you son was gawking...gee, now, where did he learn that? :)

Valerie said...

I love to see children weighing things up in their minds. Pure thoughts, so quickly forgotten. When I first saw a black girl I thought she was beautiful. I wasn't warned to keep away, and why should I ... she was beautiful. Now though racist has become fashionable in some circles. I wish I could stop it.

John DeBellis said...

Sad how ones view can get clouded thanks to the so called older and wiser.

anthonynorth said...

Some great observations in this. For what it's worth, I think we're infatuated with things to do with nature or nurture, we forget to look at culture. Usually it's that 3rd option where things creep in.

Gloria said...

Im proud really proud my twins dont have porblkem with color they only love to teasing his father is more toasted (he) remember my kids are adopted, LOL
Ahh Always wanna a chinese baby:) but Im old to care a baby again LOL
I love all people not matter the color! oh I love this post!!!!

Gloria said...

Remember the John Lennon song?? " Imagine all the people" love this song!
oh dear if you dont understand something you can ask:) I jump with my mind of here to there! sorry:)

raysharp said...

awesome, I love the story you tell, and through a child's eyes, too.

adeeyoyo said...

Children are colour-blind and have no prejudices. Blank paper waiting for the writing... It is we adults who teach them the ugliness in life. It is natural to them to watch and imitate. Unfortunately we can be as careful as possible, but when they begin school we have no control except to make sure they have a good moral grounding.

Helen said...

One of the neatest things about grandmotherhood? Watching as my grandchildren navigate life ... no prejudice regarding race, religion, sexual orientation, disability ... whew! Who knew?

Tina said...

Sorry I've missed so much of your work lately. A-Z is a full time gig...but now that all the assistants are assigned that big job (which was mine) is done...
Loved this. The zebra analogy reminded me of the star belly sneetches of Dr. Suess. Sure you've read it...
I love watching my children...and they surely learned people watching from you...

Tina @ Life is Good
Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
@TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

Tina said...

Your children watching you is what I meant. I need some sleep...
~Tina

Tara Miller said...

I don't think children really notice that or even care until it's brought to their attention by someone who does. Wish they could stay innocent.

I love just watching them and their cute little faces when they're unaware! This was sweet....

tony said...

where'd he learn that?.Love It!

Claudia said...

there are mean people in my closer family who say that i'm a black and white person and unable to see grey-shades...ha..but i can...smiles.. i think prejudice comes with the experiences we make..if we have a colored friend all the people in the world can tell us bad things about colored people and we won't listen..so prejudice is learned and can be unlearned..this i like.. and love watching my kids as well when they think no one watches them...smiles

rosaria williams said...

Usually, with our own children, we are totally blind to how they absorb messages, too busy we are with doing the "right" thing ourselves, and anticipating nothing but "the right thing" to be absorbed by our offspring.

Only later, as young adults themselves, our children reveal all they have absorbed, mostly from the parents, and mostly not consciously at all.

In a way, they reveal to us who we were as parents; they reveal to us the marks we tattoed on their souls.

Anonymous said...
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Susan said...

This poem comforts me. Forget the implications, just let me sit here in the kids section watching you watching your son watching a toddler, watching . . .

Buddah Moskowitz said...

Excellent - a quietly profound write - you're so smart to document your boys' growth in poetry. They will mean more to you than any snapshot. Good show, bro!

Green Speck said...

" the only grey
on the bottom of their hooves." - this makes it all the more perfect !!!

Leovi said...

Black on white, white on black, and gray in the brain.

HisFireFly said...

yes Brian, simply yes.

Tabor said...

Don't you often wish you could crawl inside those virgin brains and know what they were feeling and thinking? He seems to be an observer like you.

hedgewitch said...

Child's eye is wide open, but the child mind absorbs like a sponge all kinds of things, having not much experience at judging value. Always fascinating watching what it does. Liked it, bri--nice metaphor with the zebra.

Hudson Howl said...

One has to ask kids what it is they are thinking, as they come from and to observations differently then adults. I like this, it speaks to not just black and white and perceptions, it also speaks to deciphering social cues. Kids get right at a glance were the ones fuzzy it up.

Maggie May said...

Is a zebra mostly black or white! Love the idea of the hooves being grey.
I think there is more grey in life than black and white normally.
Good poem.
Maggie x

Nuts in May

Peggy said...

I enjoyed reading this--the scene of you watching your son in the book store (I could just hear him catching you at it!). And does it matter really is one of the basic questions of life I think. Nice take on stripes and thanks for being here.

kaykuala said...

The zebra is made up of black and white stripes. The same cannot be said of life though. It has to be tinged with a lot grey in between. Only then there is hope for mankind. Nicely Brian!

Hank

Dulce said...

you keep amzing guys... how you get to do it? No idea... but I keep loving your blogging idea of the world. ;-)
Thanks so much for always!!!being there

love and hugs

Susan Lindquist said...

Black on white, white on black ... I love your perception of your son observing and your perception of what he's perceiving ... it's never just black and white ... sometimes it's grey ... right? This is a neat write, brian!

Victoria said...

You watching him watching them...love it. And the play of white, black and gray is the stuff of which life is made.

Annmarie Pipa said...

childlike...not childish.

Alice Audrey said...

Reminds me of taking my kids to the local library so they could pick out bed time reading books. Especially the black on white on black, gray-hoofed zebras.

She Writes said...

I disagree with blogger about skin color and children noticing skin color. Children are wonderfully observant in a raw form because they can be. It is what they are taught, learn, pick up, or discern about the differences that changes the game. If only the whole world weren't a teacher for their young and open hearts!

Susie Clevenger said...

I too wonder what your son saw...I am painting more in gray these days. Black and White just doesn't seem to work a lot of the time.

Fred Rutherford said...

very nice. Love the observation of your son not noticing you're doing so. Pure observation. Great job detailing that here. nicely done. Thanks

Who Is Afraid Of Miss Lovett? No, Mrs.Lovett... said...

"on the kiosk, zebras dance
the front of a book, black on white,
white on black,the only grey
on the bottom of their hooves..."

Hi! Brian...
Thanks, for sharing the
photo by LWY...One word comes to mind after viewing the photo...warmth.

Once again,through your poem "the stripes of zebras" you have shared a "moment" in your life as you watched your son...watching others...as you tried to process his thoughts!
deedee :)

Mametz said...

On the Kiosk Zebra's dance - Great image, just being able to see beyond the realm of the mundane. Unique

Kelvin S.M. said...

...unnoticing i've noticed him --- i like it though at my end... i know when dad's secretly staring at or observing me and he didn't notice that i'm aware of it... kind of irritating and sometimes i would look suddenly at his direction and give a look... ha... then LOL inside for his obviously shocked reaction... smiles... liked your way at this prompt Brian...

Lorraine said...

OH to love so much, and smile at the slightly irritatd 'what'? How I remember it, beautiful piece, and I love when little toddlers start to walk, it is a work of art..

Dave King said...

Delicious, the way you've caught the simple joys and the shadow of prejudice, both.
Black on white or vice versa doesn't matter, i agree. It's black on black or white on white that annoy me these days.

missing moments said...

I find watching children fascinating and their interactions with each other. Siblings who provoke each other while parents aren't watching and the long stairs by a toddler when he finds another to observe. What does go on in their heads???

Myrna R. said...

Wow. I love the thoughts you come up with. it would be nice to know when prejudice begins. It's learned. I always thought it was from parents, but nowadays there is so much more that influences our kids. Guess we have to work harder to teach them ideals.

Joanna Jenkins said...

The face is worth a thousand words. You captured the moment perfectly. jj

Sue said...

I've seen interesting studies on this. Thought provoking stuff.

=)

Cressida de Nova said...

Cultural differences are divisive more than colour as Anthony said.
Black White Brown..we are all the same and none better than each other.

Wayne Pitchko said...

nicely done Brian

ayala said...

A sweet capture....I wish kids can remain innocent. :)

Rachel Hoyt said...

As a more sociological thinker, I tend to think it is innate because that is the way our brains are wired to learn. It's not a judgment when an innocent child is noticing differences. It is the associations we start to add to them and the fact that we start to expect everything to either be (A) or (B) which starts to get us in trouble.

LOVE the final line of your poem Brian. Way to make us all think!

Ms. Gibson said...

Brian, it's almost too fun (voyeuristic) to watch our young kids when they don't know we are watching them...they are so innocent.

Syd said...

Do you think it was prejudice or just curiosity? I suspect that your son didn't learn any form of prejudice from you.

Lolamouse said...

Love your observations on your kids! Very interesting questions you raise as well.

Goofball said...

kids that are learning to walk, tasting each step cautiously, wobbling & falling but proud of themselves

there is not much greater to watch than that!

Margaret said...

Yes, prejudice is taught. We have come a long way, but have a long way to go...