Dear Black Kids,

you will survive
 
 
emerging into the world like any other baby
small, wrinkly, squinty, and fragile
these few precious moments for every baby
sharing these same seconds of birth with you
are the only genuine moments of equality that exist in the world
you start small and squinty and innocent and impressionable
 
 
taking your first steps you don't notice the soil 
cushioning the soles of your feet
is heavier than the other kids
you tread on earth poisoned and scarred
with deaden flowers strewn about, uprooted
with the smallest of sprouts attempting to bud
while those other kids are tripping themselves 
over blooming bushels full of flowers
receiving more sunlight than necessary
more room to run, for miles it seems
endless
more room to grow
there's strong, sturdy oaks trees, and swings, and slides
and grass soft enough to tickle, not to scratch
and tulips, and daisies, and poppies
 
 
those kids, when not running themselves red with joy
and falling asleep in flowerbeds
stare 
at the aged tree stumps
and the thorns weaving through the hedges ready to snare 
any child willing enough to challenge their grip
that pollute your garden
and then they stare at you
as if you decided to make your garden look like this
as if it's disgusting 
 
 
they don't shun you from their playplace
but they don't invite you either 
 
 
you will stumble into the garden soil 
into concrete 
barriers of textbooks
and state standardized tests
into mistimed fists 
and spittled covered insults
by those kids in the bright gardens
and even some from your own plot of land 
 
 
yet when you cry for help 
your bandages are sealed with an extra layer of "get over it"
and your tears wiped away with "don't you start"
somehow, this is what is meant to make you grow
 
 
and somehow you do grow
the footsteps you press into the earth
leave bigger impacts than before
your shoulders broaden to carry 
the weight of your voice,
crackling new and curious
with bit of a wiseass sometimes
but that newfound wit blocks the vicious sneers
so you won't have to lift you knuckles
to a deserving set of teeth
the bruises don't break you 
because childhood has already graced you 
with enough callouses
"to prepare you"
"to make your skin thick"
why can those kids wear their hearts on their sleeves
while you must harden your own body into a suit of armor?
you don't ask these questions aloud
you accept you must be tough, unbreakable
you are strong
 
 
mom or pops or grandma or auntie 
stopped holding your hand a while ago 
and you are walking beside them
over the cracks in the sidewalks
and the weeds stubbornly growing in between
trying to trip you
you moved beyond your pitiful patch of earth 
into the concrete jungle 
while those kids settled into suburbia
and mom or pops or grandma or auntie guide you through it
"avert your eyes"
"keep your hands to yourself"
"don't just go giving spare change to eeeeverybody"
fencing you on the sidewalk and away from the streets
do they think you are as unruly as this concrete jungle
 
 
you go to school
it's free education so of course you go
you eyes will skim 
annotate
read
analyze
and memorize
many truths that do not quite fit together 
the truth that Columbus came to a new world
without telling the why and what did he do 
the truth about Pilgrims living in this new world  
and Native Americans suddenly disappearing 
at the end of a textbook passage
the truth about slavery ending after the Civil War
 about a black woman refusing 
 to give up her seat to a white man
 about a black man dreaming of little black children
 and white children and every shade of brown children
 coming together
was that dream planted in your garden 
did it wither into dead whispers like your flowers
did you walk past the graveyard of slain Native Americans
manipulated into surrendering their land
did you walk past the tombs of people with skin
like sun-warmed earth and strong oak trees
hanged for the simple crime of merely existing
when the teacher asks for questions at the end of the lesson you don't raise your hand
 
 
you are told it's your fault
the thorns coiling around the bones you unearthed
you put them there
the faint metallic smell of blood
wafting from a bludgeoning or a whipping that happened
decades before you were even conceived
that was all you
those kids come to this conclusion because
they made their garden so alive
so you must have killed your own
you keep coming back to this garden
while they moved on
you hold yourself back
not them
 
 
you prove them wrong
something strikes you
like the metal clang of a shovel 
reverberating through your bones
upon hitting a treasure buried
deep
deep
deep
when they tell you it's your fault
so you go back to the garden that you cannot let go
that continues to die yet is not dead
that struggles to hold on despite 
the history it has suffered
the weight of the corpses it has taken in
over the years
like you
with your broad shoulders
carrying the weight of your voice
and the voices muffled through time
with skin that failed to harden 
and bares the scars and bruises 
brought onto you because you remain a breathing human being
not a suit of armor 
with hands not afraid to raise in surrender 
to raise as fists held high above your head
with words sharp enough to cut through the lies
to its dishonest core exposed to everyone
unafraid to witness it
 
 
this garden is a legacy
and it has survived, like you will
and this legacy will thrive
like you will as well
This poem is about: 
Me
My community
Our world

Comments

Need to talk?

If you ever need help or support, we trust CrisisTextline.org for people dealing with depression. Text HOME to 741741