(Inspired by Audre Lorde’s Eulogy for Alvin Frost)
I am tired of writing memorials for their dreams
tired of them disappearing
one time a young girl catalyzed her peers
to walk out in support of a teacher
who taught for students
and not administrivia
the teacher was let go at the end of the year
the student dropped out the next fall
and I saw you growing tired too
it was rarely roses with you anyhow.
I teach a remarkable new people—
these first generation high school graduates
with grandparents who had first languages beaten out of them
and so my students have less stories now.
and when separate was equal
the barbs of police batons contained
that colorless synonym for negro
beaten into a next generation.
there is no way
to unravel your thorns
for my students.
I am done with you as the cold blank monolith
once an 11th grader came to my door
with a 2nd grade reading level
after many schools and many Ds (not Fs)
and we tested him
his data unveiled a case of neglect
and oversight too absurd for criminality
but too common for education
I heard them on the television speaking of a resurrection
but I do not believe it:
this pale Lazarus lifeless and dull
made more dull with the ash of the rising place.
they speak of second coming
omitting how they were the ones hollowing
you. they hoped I would mourn you
and pray for a moment like this
they are selling something I cannot believe.
I love showing students their data
because it helps them make sense of themselves.
but we let data speak alone
when we know damn well
too many schools forget
to teach students
to speak for themselves.
perhaps we should have let go sooner.
it would have been easier if we had torn down
those schools. we never should have closed them.
we all would have been forced then
to hold stake.
imagine if we built
gardens in every vacant classroom window
and planetariums of our cavernous gyms.
I remember my greatest days
on a mountain trail with fourteen teenagers
or on the shore of a lake
ready to throw away stones we had painted
with our burdens and carried
for a week. you were with me visiting
ruins near the lava field
when we learned about seeing land
like an owl, returning to school
with a different sense of sight:
we are better humans with all-sides-eyes.
I will always hold the borderplaces
where people I have met stitch the sutures
of our coming together
and ripping apart.
you were a stunning companion.