They will judge you
whether they know enough to do so
because a lie is the shortest distance
between a stranger and a threat.
Certain skin, shapes, tongues,
ways of loving and of seeing God(s),
the way your body moves or doesn’t,
these are no mystery
though, maybe, magic.
You are a map, unfurling.
There are no shortcuts to the truth.FHB
April is the cruellest month
Houston doesn’t really have much of a spring. Can you even call it spring when there wasn’t really a winter?
April is early summer. Temperatures in the upper 70s, low 80s. Longer days. Sun. Thunderstorms.
The weather itself mocks both teacher and student. It feels like summer. But it’s not.
Summer is freedom.
April is testing. And prep for more testing come May.
But there are festivals and parks and patio bars calling, and you want to go do all the things. Or nothing. In a hammock.
April is that one friend throwing pebbles at your bedroom window, slyly begging you to come outside and play when she knows you’re grounded for 2 more months.
Breeding lilacs out of the dead land
The lilacs are the children.
The dead land is you. Or so it seems, on Sunday night, when there are still papers left to grade. Calls still unmade. Lessons undifferentiated. Emails still flagged. And you haven’t washed your sheets/hair/car/Tupperware.
But you’re not dead. Dead tired, maybe. But not dead.
There is a layer of hope beneath the cracked topsoil. A water table. Not all of the bulbs will bloom this season. Some will. Some, next year. Some in 5. Some at a future date TBD… maybe.
You are doing fine.
If someone else’s grass looks greener, just know, it’s probably Astroturf.
Mixing memory with desire
There’s a good chance you’re looking back on Spring Break with longing, or back to last summer. Or even further back to the halcyon days of…whenever. Things were easier then. You were happier, right? (But were you? Hindsight is a Snapchat filter.) And you want that again. Now.
But it’s April.
At this point, every Friday is good.
Stirring dull roots with spring rain
Maybe your roots are dull (and, as if to add insult to injury, graying). Maybe your students, the lilacs, are dull-rooted, too. And in April, it’s hard to imagine them springing to life. Or to imagine it for yourself when the alarm clock goes off at 5:30 am. And it’s only Tuesday.
After all, you’ve tried. For months. Years, even.
But if you close your eyes and breathe deeply, there’s an earthy, metallic quality to the air. Thick and redolent. A welcome presage.
There’s word for this. Petrichor.
From the Greek word for stone, petra, and ichor, the blood of the gods. Petrichor is the smell of impending rain.
That’s the thing about April.
No matter how dull the roots, no matter how many dry days lie ahead… it will rain.
Eliot, Thomas Stearns. The Waste Land. New York: Horace Liveright, 1922
*This essay is dedicated to LAR.
If black is the absence of color,
If black is what happens when all light is absorbed,
None reaching the eye,
Lacking in hue and brightness,
Then I am not black.
I am not black.
I am color.
Feisty and flawed and fabulous.
I don’t just absorb light.
I refract it.
Taking negative energy and aiming it away,
Pulling the light of the universe into myself
And back out in rays.
Pouring on those who cannot see themselves,
I am gold.
Atomic number 79
For the year I arrived.
Resistant to attack by individual acids
Intent on breaking me down.
Mined from a place of darkness
The prospector’s find.
Brilliant, solid and strong.
I am obsidian.
Fiery magma moving in smoothly to fill vacant spaces.
Cooled and molded by experience.
Amorphous. Changing. Unclassifiable.
I am a self-fulfilling prophecy.
An ancient prediction causing myself to be true.
Though your skin may be tinted with melanin,
Ranging in shade from latte to java,
Your flavor is rich;
Your history deep;
Your potential, infinite.
Draw on the strength of your ancestors.
Construct your own definition.
Tell them this
That you are more than the color black
Broader and deeper and more complex than that.
Whenever they ask you
What you are.
I was asked to write something to perform at the Black History Month Kick-Off Assembly at my school. So…this.