White Teacher to Black Students (22/30)

I try to be a good role model
like the white people who taught me.

We talk about college
like I know how to get you there.

I was hired to teach outdoor education
but I mostly teach assimilation.

I’m interested in your culture
but now’s not the time for that.

I love and appreciate you
for helping me feel less racist.

I love when you listen
because I feel in control.

I teach the social skills I was raised with
but I have no idea if it’s what you need.

I follow school discipline policy
but I have no idea if it’s what you need.

I sometimes skimp on lesson planning
because I have no idea what you need.

I am leaving after this year
because I have no idea what you need.

Litany for Unlearning (21/30)

To defend.
To rationalize.
To deal in shame.
To speak the language of should.
To speak first.
To speak last.
To name myself ally.
To believe my work is done.
To fear conflict.
To fear healing.
To think you less than whole.
To think me less than whole.
To protect myself.
To protect myself.

To protect myself.

Litany for Learning (20/30)

To dance.
To tango.
To look up.
To breathe deep.

To notice magnolias.
Clovers in bloom.
To notice. To notice. To notice.
To notice.
To slow.
To stop.
To rest.
Take more naps.

To breathe.
To live on purpose.
Like living matters.
To speak the language of yes.
To make believe.
Dream reckless.
Like I invented it.

To smile more.
To cry,
if only for the hell of it.
To breathe.
To welcome the overwhelm.
Offer it tea and a warm meal.
Make it stay.
Fit it into this home.
Till it seeps into the walls,
the fixtures.
To teach it not to be so loud.
Teach it peace.

To love.
To listen.
To love.
To listen.
To love to listen.
To listen to love.
To love like a kite.
Like a toothless infant.
Like a gift.
To give.
To give love.
Like a mother.
Like a father.
Like a lover.
To love.
Like me.

Jewish Perspective pt ii (19/30)

[to be read in tandem with part i]

We’re in the living room of a 5-bedroom house
with pool when grandpa shares this story.

And suddenly he is not only wealthy, but defiant,
of fate, of Pharaoh and annihilation.

To be Jewish is always to mourn the pogrom, the displacement,
the gas chamber, the Inquisition, the Exodus, the desert.

To be Jewish in America is
to be white, but not only white.

There’s more to it than that.
There’s the part where you either give a damn that today’s

mundane stress has been permitted by Jewish death,
and you are much closer to having nothing than you realize,

and you can either choose gratitude and to give a damn
about struggle, and stories, and origins,

or you can wake up tomorrow and fuss about dishes,
the weather, the whatsoever-less-than-perfect.

You can do that, and lose
the stubborn wonder that you are.

Jewish Perspective pt i (18/30)

Irene’s father asks where she’s going

she says
Away from Hitler

Her father digs on
tending a garden whose soil
will soon sprout gunshot shells

Less stubborn than
the men in our family
Irene decides to survive

Five years later
married and with child
she returns West

Home is a land mine
live and undetonated
promising to kill
the moment she reclaims it

at a British field hospital
Irene and husband lie
claiming the unborn baby
a child of British rape
identity her price of admission

The baby
now not two weeks old
sleeps beneath a floorboard
while Jew-hungry drunks smash
refugee quarters above

That the baby
dies at 50
of cancer in America
is a miracle
this family


If anyone knows how to contact inkskinned (who reblogged my Ten Men poem), please ask her to reach out to me! I have a project idea! Thanks!

Tags: HELP!!!

Etymology of “Crush” (17/30)

Because passing interest is more squeeze and love
is more shatter, so what falls between the two?

Because you are four, and her name is Ariana.
She doesn’t laugh at how your ears stick out,
but smiles. You hold hands. Mom gives it a name,
she knows just by looking.

Because to preserve a flower, you must press it gently.
To destroy it, place it between thumb and forefinger then rub.

Because your first big move is always to make her dinner,
so you grind herbs with mortar and pestle.

Because of how a ribcage closes around struggling lungs.

Because every old love poem is now crumpled paper in a landfill.

Because you cleaned your room this month. Meaning
you’re ready to welcome someone in again. Meaning
you’re ready to hope it won’t feel like
balancing lead blocks on your backbone.

Because calling it something nicer wouldn’t make you think twice,
and you’ve learned always to think twice.

Poem for a Crush (16/30)

We flirt like nervous puppies;
soft fur tail wagging and light licks to the jowls.

Or is one of us a squirrel,
cowering frightened behind a hedge?

I’m the squirrel, of course;
you’re the nut I haven’t cracked.

If love is a forest there’s a great pine upon which you live,
which is really the bed you share with a red-eyed rodent.

I’m first in line at best.                                

Maybe love’s a game and this one’s monopoly.
It’s taking too long and neither of us has enough money.

If it’s my turn I’m seconds from quitting, but I think it’s yours so
I’m pacing impatiently, pretending myself on other women.

If love is make-believe then I’ll settle for the could-have-been.
You’ll always find me satisfying in my imagination.

If one of us is the squirrel, the other the puppy,
perhaps one day we’ll approach each other with caution,

speaking different animal languages,
signaling: yes, come closer,

forever misunderstanding.

New Orleans pt. iii (15/30)

Your first time down, Katrina is a hideous infant of 16 months. The kin nobody can leave because of blood. Because they’ll dream about her either way. St. Bernard stands naked, still sopping up the Gulf’s leftover puddles. Concrete slabs complete the map, a geography of used to be, of once. Any day the neighbors’ll be back tugging crowbars to expose mold. Old gypsum ripped from babies’ bedrooms, replaced with Chinese drywall. Every block another unresolved toxic lawsuit. Rumor of cancelled flood protection seeps into dreams, then conversation, then into the heart. Like a good neighbor State Farm leaves you hanging. Mrs. Grace’s the first house you’ll work on. Asks for any paint but antique white. Puts up a fight because what’s she got left when she can’t decide the hue of her own home?

Here you are, an insert in the mix: the picture of American compassion. Give a week then leave. School’s back soon and you can’t miss that. At night you sleep in hotel beds, sheets warm and fresh. Morning brings warm oatmeal and eggs.

You promise a someday return not knowing what you started, or how to finish.

New Orleans pt. ii (14/30)

Today you rent bikes and pedal out to Madaket. Pack picnic and snacks in soft cloth bags. Seagulls mine the sidewalks for breadcrumbs. Perhaps it’s not quite warm out and perhaps the steady wind will make the beach not perfectly pleasant but here you are, 16 in summertime with a dry sweater and khaki shorts; not 16 and swimming down the street you live on, or 16 and living now on the roof of a house you should be living in, your whole neighborhood an emergency and neither phones nor flares nor prayers yield to rescue.

None of that, because New Orleans is not your home yet, and when it is it won’t be a home you’ve had to tether to for survival. It won’t have stared you down to prove your loyalty. It is still years away and you are sleepy on vacation, not starving or trembling in foul, uninvited waters. Soon you will be at the beach and taste not tar nor gasoline because no petrol plants have snapped and drowned here. No sludge crept onto your block.

Later, on accident, you will swallow a half a cup of saltwater. You won’t give it a second thought.