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Chicago Public High School Teacher

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An honorary mention in the Open Lyric Submission Contest; Inspired by Chance song Pusha Man/Paranoia

Written by Sejal Jain

 

Chicago Public High School Teacher

The kids don’t filter out of the classroom

like sunlight in.

No, they move in sudden taxis

drawn quickly to the outside

like warm water rising, reaching

for the ocean surface

in all its refractory light

The boys’ backs straighten

during the final minutes of class.

Apprehension props open their eyes

to gaze heavenward, chins resting

on backpacks perched

on bouncing knees

and encircled in their arms

the same way, I imagine,

they hold little sisters

Nightfall reverberates in this city:

the sound waves of gunshots

opening our front doors

ricocheting off our dinner plates

slipping under our covers

as if delivering us the injury

I let my eyes fall on each boy

and each backpack

wondering how many

conceal their daddies’ knives

their brothers’ pistols

their cousins’ fists

their sisters’ bruises

their mothers’ scars

Silence in the classroom is rare

but when it arrives, it is so profound

that you can hear the prayers in our heads

the laminae of tears forming over lower lids

and a memory of my student’s laugh

echoing from his old desk in the fifth row.

RIP Laquan McDonald (1997-2014), Tyshawn Lee (2006-2015), Jonylah Watkins (2012-2013), Hadiya Pendleton (1998-2013), Blair Holt (1993-2007), Derrion Albert

(1994-2009), Dantrell Davis (1985-1992), and the hundreds of youths killed in gun, police, and gang-related violence in Chicago, and around the world, each year.

 

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