Separate & Unequal

 In Poems

She waits by the bus stop
on the first day of school.

She carries a book bag
that once belonged to her sister,
but her smile is fresh
as this morning’s sunshine.

A yellow school bus rolls up,
packed to the brim with bodies.
She barely finds a seat.

On the long ride to school,
she dreams veterinarian,
she dreams dancer,
she dreams she could be anything.

She finds her English class 1st period,
not enough seats for every student.
She’s handed the novel
the class will read first.
Her copy is missing the cover
and the last page is gone.

In line at lunch,
she watches one boy shove another.
Administrators pin them down,
officers come with handcuffs.
She watches student turn to prisoner.

1st quarter turns to 2nd.
Teachers do more screaming than teaching.
One wrong move means suspension.
Classrooms turn to battlefields
where learning is the causality.
Classmates turn to drop outs turn to ghosts.
She watches her As turn to Cs turn to Fs.

At the parent teacher conference,
they call her problem
they call her trouble
they call her at-risk.
She turns her head and stays silent.

3rd quarter turns to 4th.
The school bus turns the corner.
She watches dreams turn to dust.

He skips the bus stop
and gets dropped off
in his dad’s new BMW.

He wears a button-down
emblazoned with the seal
of his private academy.

On the long drive to school,
he dreams summer pool parties,
he dreams getting drunk,
he dreams whatever.

His 1st period is full
of the sons and daughters
of doctors and lawyers.
Homework is due on Google Drive
with his school issued iPad.

At lunch, he slaps the ass
of an unsuspecting freshman,
knowing they’ll never believe her.

1st quarter turn to 2nd.
He skips 3rd period
to sell pot in the parking lot,
knowing they’ll never expel him.

Pot turns to pills turns to blur.
He cheats his way through Biology
and pays an honors student
to write his essays for English.

At the parent teacher conference,
they call him star
they call him model student
they call him college bound.
He turns his head and smiles.

3rd quarter turns to 4th.
The wheels of a BMW turn into the parking lot.
He watches privilege turn to power.

America,

How long will we pretend
that this is not separate?

How long will we tell ourselves
that this is equal?

 

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