African . . .
These are the words my four-year-old son
pushes from his lips
as I drive by American Furniture Warehouse—
leaning over his car seat,
pressing his face into the glass window,
attempting to read the letters
displayed across the front of the building.
I want to applaud him,
congratulate him for getting at least one word right,
but I wonder why he chose the other two…
as if he’s throwing a part of his heritage away.
And I worry.
Did I not read enough tales of
Anansi, the cunning spider,
before he fell asleep?
Did my forgetful husband let him watch
Saturday morning cartoons instead
of the Gullah Gullah Island reruns
I’d recorded and set aside for him?
Does he still play with his action figures—
John Stewart’s Green Lantern?
Falcon from the Marvel Comics?
I did it, mommy. I read the sign!
I look at him through the rearview mirror,
smile weakly at my baby boy’s reflection.
Does he know who he is?
Can he see himself in
the myths and fables,
the educational programming,
the animated superheroes?
I want to pull over,
sweep him up in my warm Black embrace.
There’s nothing elsewhere about being African American,
I wish I could say with an undeceiving heart.
Instead I continue driving.
Good job, I tell him.
© 2015 Nortina Simmons
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