© 2016 Katherine Williams
"Crayola" appears in
Mrs. Nelson’s Class
World Enough Writers (2017)
Marilyn Nelson, Ed.

Yes, this is a second grader speaking in blank verse. She is precocious.

We always love when Tennessee-Ernie-Ford
comes on the radio. His names are always
together, like eenie-meenie-miney-moe,
catch a—Mrs. Nelson writing on the board,
all ball fall call doll which one doesn’t belong?
I like her because she isn’t old and mean
like Mrs. Grant was in first grade. Her shiny
hair reminds me of the hula dancers on
the souvenir menu from the ship’s dining
room. Sixteen tons and what do you get.
Cindy? Your turn. Sixteen plus seven’s hard
to count on fingers. Mrs. Nelson always
shushes the others when my turn comes to add
at the board. Mama won’t practice these
with me at home like Mrs. Nelson says to.
Mrs. Nelson taught us how to say the I
pledge of allegiance and always gives us hints
when we forget. O Beautiful for Spacious
Skies and O Say Can You See. One time I saw,
when she was teaching us This Land Is Your Land,
tears come to her eyes but then she stopped.
Mrs. Nelson smiles, when I get breakfast
or Wednesday to spell, and roll my eyes—
too easy. Why don’t I ever get receive?
I love the way she smells, her pretty dresses
so neatly pressed. How cool her soft, dark hand
feels on mine when I ask her what flesh means
on the label. Cradling my wrist,
she holds the crayon next to it. I stand
there looking into her black eyes, then down
at my pale wrist, and back into her eyes—
I just don’t know what I’m supposed to get.