Who is this brown girl dreaming, my teacher wants to know.
Staring out the window so.
Head in hands and eyes – gone from here.
Where are you, Dear?
Come back to the classroom, my pretty brown girl
I fear you’re halfway around the world.
Where is that mind of yours now?
Outside the winter stabs through the air
sneaks past the classroom windowpane and there
beneath a truck
a frozen bird being sniffed by a stray cat,
I don’t yet know the word ‘disdain’
But in this moment, the world feels far away
I dream of stepping out into it one day to rest my feet
in unfamiliar sand, to touch the hand of a boy or girl
on the other side – where it’s nighttime now, or summer there.
And maybe return to this place, a different girl with
just a trace of who I used to be echoing somewhere nearby
to me and as the teacher goes on and on her words are suddenly
becoming a poem that I may sing on an orange afternoon
inside a room where people will know my name.
This is an excerpt from the paperback edition of Brown Girl Dreaming, out tomorrow.
Jacqueline Woodson is the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award. Her latest novel Another Brooklyn is a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award for fiction.