Green-Thumb Boy

Dr. L. H. Pammel

Hybridization, cross-breeding, evolution:
He takes to new theories
like a puppy takes to ice cream.
We whisper that our Green-Thumb Boy
is the black Mendel, that Darwin
would have made good use of Carver's eyes.
So clear his gift for observation:
the best collector I've ever known.
I think we have an entirely new species
of Pseudocercospora.
And always in his threadbare lapel
a flower. Even in January.
I've never asked how.

We had doubts
about giving him a class to teach,
but he's done a bang-up job
with the greenhouse. His students
see the light of genius
through the dusky window of his skin.
Just yesterday, that new boy,
what's-his-name, from Arkansas,
tried to raise a ruckus when Carver
put his dinner tray down.
He cleared his throat, stared, rattled
his own tray, scraped his chair legs
in a rush to move away. Carver
ate on in silence. Then the boys
at the table the new boy had moved to
cleared their throats, rattled their trays
and scraped their chair legs as they got up
and moved to Carver's table.

Something about the
man does that, raises the best
in you. I've never asked what.
I guess I'll put his name next to mine
on that article I'm sending out.

Marilyn Nelson, "Green-Thumb Boy" from Carver. Copyright © 2001 by Marilyn Nelson. Reprinted by permission of Highlights for Children/Boyds Mills Press.
Source: Carver: A Life in Poems (Front Street, 2001)
More Poems by Marilyn Nelson