Environmental Factor, March 2006, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Dee Anderson: Poetry in Motion
By Colleen Chandler
Every day Dee Anderson comes to work a little bit early. When she arrives at her office in the F building of the main campus, she immediately sets off on foot, completing three laps, round trips from the F building to the A building. For more than four years now, this is part of her morning routine. It is her time, time to get focused, reflect and prepare for the day at work.
During her morning walk on Feb. 13, a poem popped into her head, and when she returned to her office, she wrote it down. Now, it seems, the poetry is flowing: Anderson has written 14 since then.
Before working on her brother's poems, Anderson had written only one of her own, which she shared with her coworker, Chris Hunt, and her husband. She is saving that poem, about her mother, for the moment in time when she will need it to comfort her nieces and nephews when Anderson's mother passes. That first poem, she said, was written to help young family members understand that it was just her mother's time to go.
In the meantime, Anderson has been busy typing up her brother's poems, a task she volunteered for because she believes he is not only talented and worthy of publication, but an enlightened person with a lot of insights into the human soul. As many a truly artistic person has done, her brother, Nehemiah, had accumulated quite a collection of paper scraps, like napkins, discarded envelopes and the sort, containing his rhetorical gems. Since he was 19 years old, he has been writing poetry on whatever medium he could find. Over the years, he has collected the scraps and has accumulated four bags full. Anderson is determined to get them all typed, formatted and ready for formal presentation to a publisher.
Nehemiah has had a hard life, Anderson said, and publishing a collection of his poems, which reflect his life experiences, will provide a well deserved sense of accomplishment for him. It will be proof, she said, that "the gift God gave him he has used."
Because of her work with Nehemiah's poems, Anderson has become accustomed to the rhythm of poetry. When the poem came to her during her walk on the morning of Feb. 13, the words, like pieces of a puzzle, simply fell into place in time with the rhythmic pattern she had become accustomed to as she typed Nehemiah's poems. On this particular day, she was thinking about Black History Month.
Everyone has a gift, Anderson said, but she insists hers is not writing poetry. She attributes the creation of The Color of My Skin to her work on her brother's poetry. She insists her gift is to serve others. It seems she has been able to do that, as well, with the poem, which dares people to examine their innermost thoughts.
Using words to touch the human heart is nothing new for Anderson, division secretary in the Health and Safety Branch. She is a minister, as is her 23-year-old son, Raymond.
For Anderson, reaching out to others in need is a way of life. For example, after Anderson married several years ago and she and her husband decided to consolidate belongings, she put her house up for sale. A young couple was interested in buying the house, but had some problems securing financing. Anderson and her husband worked with the couple and allowed them to stay in the house until they could resolve the financial issues. Anderson and her husband remain close to the couple who bought the home. The couple who bought the house had a baby, and Anderson and her husband became his godparents. In her office in HSB, Anderson's screensaver pops up with photos of her godson, whom she cares for every Saturday while his mother works.
"What really matters is how many people you help in life," Anderson said. "Life is only going to go around once, so you better make the best of it."
The Color of My Skin
When you look at me - What do you see
Just the color of my skin
Because that is how you were reared to be.
But I dare you to test my mind
Because by surprise you will find
that your's is no better than mine.
For a man should not be judged by how much he knows
Nor the color of his eyes
Or the size of his nose
But a man should be judged by the love that he shows.
So I ask you, if you see a brother down and out
Will you reach down and help him
Or just wait for someone else
Because you don't have the love it takes
To give someone else a break.
So wake up - and you will see
That we live in a new time
and you are still living in a fantasy.
©2006 by Deloris A. Anderson