PS/IS 686 | Brooklyn, NY

Grade 8 Humanities: Black History Month

1475740590I Have Seen Black Hands


I am black and I have seen black hands, millions and millions of them,

Out of millions of bundles of wool and flannel tiny black fingers have

reached restlessly and hungrily for life.

Reached out for the black nipples at the black breasts of black mothers,

And they’ve held red, green, blue, yellow, orange, white, and purple

toys in the childish grips of possession.

And chocolate drops, peppermint sticks, lollypops, wineballs, ice cream

cones, and sugared cookies in fingers sticky and gummy,

And they’ve held balls and bats and gloves and marbles and jack-knives

and sling-shots and spinning tops in the thrill of sport and play.

And pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters and sometimes on

New Year’s, Easter, Lincoln’s Birthday, May Day, a brand new

green dollar bill,

They’ve held pens and rulers and maps and tablets and books in palms

spotted and smeared with ink,

And they’ve held dice and cards and half-pink flasks and cue sticks and

cigars and cigarettes in the pride of new maturity…

II I am black and I have seen black hands, millions and millions of them

They were tired and awkward and calloused and grimy and covered

with hangnails,

And they were caught in the fast-moving belts of machines and snagged

and smashed and crushed.

And they jerked up and down at the throbbing machines massing

taller and taller the heaps of gold in the banks of bosses,

And they piled higher and higher the steel, iron, the lumber, wheat,

rye, the oats, corn, the cotton, the wool, the oil, the coal, the meat,

the fruit, the glass, and the stone until there was

too much to be used,

And they grabbed guns and slung them on their shoulders and marched

and groped in trenches and fought and killed and conquered

nations who were customers for the goods black hands had made. …