I came across the poem, “Today,” in the me nobody knows: children’s voices from the ghetto, by Stephen M. Joseph (Avon, 1969). There are many beautiful, and some heartbreaking, stories and poems in the book, which is an anthology of writings by children in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Harlem, Jamaica, and the lower west and east sides of Manhattan. The year after the book was published, a musical based it, The Me Nobody Knows, premiered in New York.
Joseph, a teacher, invited the children to write, offering three choices: to write using their names, in which case he was willing to meet at lunch or outside of school to talk with them about it; omit their names, but still hand in the writing; or write, but neither sign the paper nor hand it in. But he never forced them to write at all.
The pieces in the book give one picture of life in the inner city, or for that matter, many children everywhere. They invite the question: Are we doing any better for children today, 40 years later?
This poem struck me for its rhythm and the ways that things seem not totally to fit, but do fit all the same.
Cynthia L, Age 15
Today is my day,
Today should be your day,
If it’s your day and my day
It’s everybody’s day.
In your way is my day
Because you made a day that comes all the way.
And two days of a way equal today.
That will never fade away.
In our own way let’s find ways
To make great exciting things happen.
In your ways, make my days,
You made a day that comes all the way,
And two days that are made up of your ways,
Those kind of days will never fade away.