Father’s Day is coming up, so I dug around for a favorite poem about dads. Right away I thought of my favorite collection of dadly poems for kids, In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers (New York: Lee & Low, 1997). I can’t believe it has been a decade since that book was published! The beautiful, textured collages of Javaka Steptoe (son of author/illustrator, John Steptoe, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, another favorite of mine) won him a Coretta Scott King Illustrator award for his very first picture book. And the compilation of poems by a variety of African American poets is fresh and appealing—across cultures, across ages, across generations. Here’s one of my personal favorites.
Artist to Artist
by Davida Adedjouma
I write books, now, because my father wanted
to be an artist when he grew up & he was good
at it, too. Drew people with meat on their bones
in flesh-colored tones from my 64-colors box
of crayons. But
every night - & sometimes even weekends & holidays -
he dressed in the blue uniform & black shoes
of many other fathers who also weren't doctors or lawyers,
teachers or preachers, & rode the 10:00 p.m. bus
to the downtown post office. Sorted mail by zip code -
60620, 60621, 60622. He sorted mail all night &
into the day because we had bills to pay. For 30 years
my father rode the bus feeling black and blue. He
never drew and his degrees in art & education sat
hardening on a shelf along with his oils
& acrylics. But
along with his gapped teeth, his bow legs & and his first name
with an A at the end, he gave me the urge to create
characters with meat on their bones, in flesh-colored tones
written in words as vivid as a 64-colors box of crayons.
I write, he drew. Daddy, thank you!
& now that you're
... what do you want to be?
Picture credit: Lee and Low Books