A Pocket of Resistance: the kid with green hair

the kid with green hair

it was a necessary drive
for a blood test about
five miles down the road
pass four to six schools
depending on my route,
i not realizing
it was the first day of the new school term
in july.
something is just wrong about that:
july, when i was shirtless, barefoot, just shorts,
romping in the front and back yard,
under the fence or up the hill or down the street
to play with neighbors, similarly attired
climbing trees, hitting balls, playing cowboys and indians,
vacation bible school, swimming pools, picnics
in the dirt and grass with stinging bees
throwing a blanket under the chinese elm in the front yard
sitting on the small screened-in back porch when it rained,
playing board or card games with lemonade as a chaser;
can’t imagine school in july.

what the hell do i know?
i mean, they got all these teachers with degrees,
unions and administrators as many as the teachers
directing those self-same teachers
as to what to teach, how much, grading, testing
so the kids will be smarter than me
they divided up the terms for shorter vacations,
i.e. summer vacations truncated, for memory retention
i remember my teachers who loved me enough
to teach me basics
give me three months of summer vacation in the sun;
of course, we didn’t have air-conditioning then,
just big ceiling fans and open windows;
can’t imagine sitting in those big rooms in july
staring out at summer.

then, coming back from the blood test,
taking the back roads to avoid the opening school crowds
then giving up when i realized the crowds were everywhere,
i spotted the boy walking with his mother to school:
i did that once,
walking to school with my mother
the first morning, six-years old,
within a half block of the school
i told her i was all right; she could go home;
i walked that half-mile with friends or by myself
every weekday for six years (except for summer vacation, of course),
no adult supervision, no fear, laughing mostly,
to home where most of the time
it was just me, then sister and me, and two years brother, sister, and me
into the unlocked house
until mother got home from work;
i understand
this mother walking her son along with an unending parade
of mothers walking their children to school
because it’s different now:
fear breeds protection: that is good and understandable;
yet this boy, this kid has got green hair:
am i watching sesame street?
does the boy want to be oscar the grouch, kermit the frog?
i wanted to be hopalong cassidy and then roy rogers
would have been laughed into oblivion
i had shown up with green hair.

i drove through the crowd at the elementary school;
i drove through the crowd at the middle school;
i drove through the crowd at the high school;
i drove through the crowd at the community college;
i did not see one girl in a dress or skirt;
where did those girls i worshipped go?
they were mysteriously, beautifully different;
put them on a pedestal, so to speak,
i worshipped them, didn’t understand them (still don’t),
wanted to be their hero,
wanted to take care of them, or at least to a movie;
now they are independent,
like the boys, only prettier,
someone might call me a chauvinist
or worse,
i recognize the world, their world is not what mine was:
ike and adlai running against each other: the world was safe,
segregated but safe,
bigoted but safe,
polio inflicted but safe,
soviet a-bomb threatened but safe
because we could hide under our desks,
then muster in the school’s front yard,
before walking home by ourselves
with the boys in jeans and the girls in dresses,
not in summer,
not with green hair.


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