Poetry: ‘at a school assembly for 9/11’

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Editor’s note: The Reads beat is publishing short fiction, poetry and other creative writing pieces. Send submissions to scotts7 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

miss james, the school principal, asks the room of first
through fifth graders to close their eyes, in a moment
of remembrance. let us remember the brave men and
women, who died in those towers, she says, and let us 
remember the brave soldiers who died in another country
while killing little Brown girls and little boys who are not much older
than you all. a moment of silence. 
 
in a room of eyes closed a little boy opens his,
soft Black eyes open and blinking around him,
wondering at how much different his friends’
faces look, when their eyes are shut. he moves as if 
floating up to his white teacher, who is wearing a string of pearls
wrapped tightly around her neck, a pearl choker, and 
the boy touches his neck almost reflexively, wondering
at what type of person could wear such a thing, knowing
his own mother cannot even wear the loosest of jewelry.
his best friend ty has a soft field of little red freckles
looking like little strawberries in a field, set aside in 
perfect little red lines across pale cheeks. the little boy 
wonders who made those lines so straight on ty’s face;
ty cannot draw even the shortest of straight lines, someone
else’s labor must have gone into making these strawberry
fields. ty’s mother would say god, but the little boy 
does not think god was witness to the planting of crops
in a straight line. 
 
a little crow flies in through an open window. the
bird cocks its head to the side, its neck strange and 
angled in an inhuman curve, and the little boy wonders
about the chicken he ate last night for dinner. he remembers
a documentary he saw on television last night, that care
is taken to ensure that americans only eat chickens
whose necks have been snapped mercifully, death comes
for these birds, in less than eight minutes. 
 
the little boy is back in class now; the assembly has
finished. miss adams, who teaches penmanship, asks 
the class to write their first and last names in cursive, 
three times. ty looks nervous. his cursive is very
bad. the little boy is very good at cursive, and he excitedly
picks up his pencil to write his 
name, but i am ashamed to say that 
i, and you, and we, 
have forgotten it already.

Contact Angeline Truong at altruong ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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