The Reason I Read You Poetry

I always pace when I read you poetry

One poem

Per morning

Per day

 

The reason I read you poetry

Is because when the president refers to “inner city children”

He does not hear Kobe’s take on French Existentialism

Or what Kyla thinks about the theories of Hannah Arendt

 

He cannot see

The way Erica’s eyes light up

Whenever I say, “This one is a love poem.”

 

Now, don’t get me wrong

None of us are experts

But do not dare believe

That expertise is the only thing

That qualifies you

To speak up

 

The reason I read you poetry

Is because black literary excellence

Is reduced to

A Department of Education misspelling of DuBois

 

The reason I read you poetry

Is because before Neruda

You said

I didn’t know Latinos wrote poetry

 

I read for Alexa’s slow clap

And Alexis stating “You missed it again”

When Jamal comes bursting through the door

Right…

On…

Late.

 

The reason I read you poetry

Is so your margins of tolerance for others

May be wider

Than the margins the Chicago Police Department gives you

For error

 

The reason I read you poetry

Is because of numbers

We are taught to view our potential through the lens of

Percentages

Benchmarks

Attainment

Mastery.

 

I am taught to analyze your potential

In black and white

When we live in a world as grey as

The frigid December day

Painted in my first favorite poem

‘Oranges’

By Gary Soto

 

When I read you that poem

You asked why the chocolate only cost a nickel

A question that does not beg

Lengthy discussion

But states

“I’m listening.”

 

It wasn’t one of your most insightful questions

But I can’t help but set the bar high

When you engage in normative ethics

And Ta-Nehisi Coates

In ways that still amaze me

 

I understand that sometimes

The words of Audre Lorde

Are synchronous with your bookbag zippers

Crumpling loose leaf

Hands reaching for independent reading books

And overdue homework

And your eyes are elsewhere

 

Attention is rarely undivided

And that is exactly the point.

 

The words of our wisest must surround the most mundane of tasks

Did you know that existentialism was born of an apricot cocktail?

German phenomenology of a cup of coffee?

 

The moment we confine poetry to the analytic

To the formal

To the academic

To something apart from our ordinary

Is the moment we deny

Its necessity

 

The reason I read you poetry

Is because you deserve a symphony of stanzas

Constellations of perfectly placed consonants

And perpetual poetic justice

Infused into your everyday

 

The reason I read you poetry

Is that last week one of you was writing poetry

When you should have been taking notes

I stopped pacing

And said nothing

Because watching your purple pen

Glide across college-ruled lines

 

Was the best compliment

I’ve ever received.

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