Poem of the Day! National Poetry Month, 2012

A Poem about Intelligence for My Brothers and Sisters

By June Jordan

A few years back and they told me Black

means a hole where other folks

got brain/it was like the cells in the heads

of Black children was out to every hour on the hour naps

Scientists called the phenomenon the Notorious

Jensen Lapse, remember?

Anyway I was thinking

about how to devise

a test for the wise

like a Stanford-Binet

for the C.I.A.

you know?

Take Einstein

being the most the unquestionable the outstanding

the maximal mind of the century


And I’m struggling against this lapse leftover

from my Black childhood to fathom why

anybody should say so:

E=mc squared?

I try that on this old lady live on my block:

She sweeping away Saturday night from the stoop

and mad as can be because some absolute

jackass have left a kingsize mattress where

she have to sweep around it stains and all she

don’t want to know nothing about in the first place

“Mrs. Johnson!” I say, leaning on the gate

between us: “What you think about somebody come up

with an E equals M C 2?

“How you doin,” she answer me, sideways, like she don’t

want to let on she know I ain’

combed my hair yet and here it is

Sunday morning but still I have the nerve

to be bothering serious work with these crazy

questions about

E equals what you say again, dear?”

Then I tell her, “Well

also this same guy? I think

he was undisputed Father of the Atom Bomb!”

“That right.” She mumbles or grumbles, not too politely

“And dint remember to wear socks when he put on

his shoes!” I add on (getting desperate)

at which point Mrs. Johnson take herself and her broom

a very big step down the stoop away from me

“And never did nothing for nobody in particular

lessen it was a committee


used to say, ‘What time is it?’


you’d say, ‘Six o’clock.’


he’d say, ‘Day or night?’


and he never made nobody a cup a tea

in his whole brilliant life!


[my voice rises slightly]


he dint never boogie neither: never!”

“Well,” say Mrs. Johnson, “Well, honey,

I do guess

that’s genius for you.”


About libstaff

Bryan Hinds Evening Circulation Supervisor St. Ambrose University 518 W. Locust St. Davenport IA 52803
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