Tuesday, February 28, 2012

a new, too-honest poem

"an apology to some chicago youth from a white girl who should know better"
(February 25, 2012)

tonight, i looked up and saw
an actual crescent and star sky.
i started thinking of you, all of you.
i started imagining that black men can fucking fly
up, over the skyscrapers and this city's hideous teeth.
i saw you in that sky, filled with Allah's sign.

there is so much they don't teach us
in do-gooder school.
so much that only you have taught me.
wards of the state.
that's the true word.

you are inmates of this city.
someone shuffles you along
into abuse after abuse
until you count
fucked-up foster homes
like birthdays.
and your tiny checks are given out
by unkindness personified.
and no one asks you
about the last book you read
or your cousin who got shot.

we owe you so many apologies.
we owe you so much more.

i am sorry that,
behind everyone's eyes,
you can see that
there is no hope
for you here.

i am sorry i thought i could hide
being a nerdy white girl
from the wrong side of the west coast
who has never seen shit like this before.

i am sorry for all of my terrible dance moves

there are few,
if any,
ways to let you know
that these apologies come from a sorer place
than guilt.
guilt i know.
it is the minuscule price i pay,
along with a few words i don't use
and a few places i don't belong,
to try to understand this broken world.

the rent you have been asked to pay
has been far higher
since the day you were born,
since this broken world's axis
tips so wildly towards
things that look like me.

you are disappearing so fast these days.
we have failed
to snatch you from the jaws
of these lock-down, white-washed

we twist your words and actions
in the worst possible way.

i hear her on the phone say you "deserve it."
say "crazy."
say "locked up."
and then hand you your food stamps
and ask you to say "thank you."
we fear you
and demand your respect.
exactly like the prisons
they think you are aimed for.

i want to tell them what they don't see,
the words they haven't heard,
the things you know about us
and our terrible lies
but are too polite
or afraid
to say.
but i cling tight
to the bullshit boundaries of this job,
too afraid to say how much you are teaching me,
without meaning to,
without being asked.

two months from now,
we will fade from each other.
i will be just another white girl
who left.
and people will gather around me
and tell me how much good i've done.
i will be tempted to believe them.

but then, when i think of you,
i will remember the truest thing i learned:
given space and leverage enough,
black men can fucking fly.
we just need to get our
white hands
off of them.

i will never tell you this.
but somebody should.

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