lessons

My mother says:

When Mama tried to teach me

to make collards and potato salad
I didn't want to learn.

She opens the box of pancake mix, adds milk
and eggs, stirs. I watch
grateful for the food we have now—syrup waiting
in the cabinet, bananas to slice on top.
It's Saturday morning.
Five days a week, she leaves us
to work at an office back in Brownsville.
Saturday we have her to ourselves, all day long.

Me and Kay didn't want to be inside cooking.

She stirs the lumps from the batter, pours it
into the buttered, hissing pan.

Wanted to be with our friends
running wild through Greenville.
There was a man with a peach tree down the road.
One day Robert climbed over that fence, filled a bucket
with peaches. Wouldn't share them with any of us but
told us where the peach three was. And that's where we
wanted to be
sneaking peaches from that man's tree, throwing
the rotten ones
at your uncles!

Mama wanted us to learn to cook.

Ask the boys, we said. And Mama knew that wasn't fair
girls inside and the boys going off to steal peaches!
So she let all of us
stay outside until suppertime.

And by then, she says, putting our breakfast on the table,

it was too late.

Jacqueline Woodson, "lessons" from Brown Girl Dreaming. Copyright © 2014 by Jacqueline Woodson. Used by permission of Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
Source: Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014)
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