The classroom breathes warm vanilla sugar
first chill of winter fogs the windows cloudy
come for one of us, come for us all: a poster warns
across the room a teacher asks for silence
the students instead flouting wildflowers
in a circle, the black girls outnumber
the black boys who scatter to outnumber
the brown boys who outnumber no one
speaking Spanish to themselves
some of the black girls sit pretty and neat
some of the black girls sit wide and long
and some curl tightly in a desk too small
already full bloom roses open for spring.
Most of the black boys are teasing cute
brushing waves flashing white teeth while
the brown boys huddle and laugh baseball
the classroom is a loud hot Tuscan sun
but the teacher is calm eggshell a cool
sapphire still asking; when’s the last time
you felt like an outcast? a girl with long thick
eye lashes looks up heavy and rolls back into
her coffin shaped neon green nails that hold
a cell phone tightly, missing the glittered box
passing hand to hand asking for stories to tell
when living was no rainbow to reach for –
there is an orchestra of hopeless trigger heard
as death walks in with ease, a breathless rush
from those who’ve played truth/or/dare with it before
and I am questioning: how do you water a dead thing?
There is no faith in tomorrow and no blame: cuz
sometimes you just don’t know how to say it
a black boy explains, facing an untied sneaker
what’s the point if nothing gets better?
The teacher is silent, the classroom hums grey
the glittered box lands on a girl with cinnamon
afro-puffs on her perfectly round head
eyes soft brown almonds: maybe, she starts
if I were not here, I wouldn’t hear my mama crying
[at night] for the bills she can’t pay and then
everything becomes rock-n-roll, confessions louder
than any chord: I tried, I thought, I failed they all sing –
and so, how do you water a dead thing? the wildflowers
are still facing sun’s heat sipping on their last
– can you hear them asking?
Secrets in their chest circulate transparent
[the word I know for this] is still missing
the glittered box weighs heavier
continuing to reflect the apparitions
seated twin –
are they aware of their inhabiting chill?
I knew a boy, a soft voice spoke, who had it all and yet…
we know his true confession; I too, am thinking
of this choice and is my voice reaching you?
If a star basketball player could hide, take rope, why can’t i?
the teacher has become desert clay, full of something curious
and brightly asking questions in scared response:
is there no one to talk to?
Where on me is the air? I am only witness
but I want to tell of the rupture hold the silence
their mamas are crying, their daddies are trying
and the babies are leaning into fugitivity.
The ache is mossy
and there’s only been one hour
to hold their emerald desires.
I am listening for more color.
What is their shade of choice?
Their cries are everywhere ruby
and hot; they are not afraid of death
only disappearing for relief
arms first into murky indigo waters
or to float in evening’s navy air
for another world completely
now realized on my foreign ears
and I am begging for more.