poem: white house


It appears the nation has decided, state by state,
to remind our teachers just how inconsequential we are.
Perhaps they are looking forward to the day
when the madness of twenty-four angry fourth graders
can be absorbed by androids,
with no risk of breakdown.
In the meantime,
we that empower the most fragile pieces
of every house in America will learn to
crack the marble with the sharpest spoon we can muster.
But parents of America, I have but one request.

I want you to give your child a gift, before they climb onto the bus.
In their backpack, place a leather belt.
Then tell your child the fact that they are no longer home
is no longer excuse to behave like an animal, to horrify six hours
of someone else’s day. Tell them that if their behavior does not
dramatically shift, their teacher is legally
allowed to whoop they ass.

I dream of the day that some ten-year-old will
step into my face and call me out my name,
to which I gleefully respond: your decision. pull it out.
They don’t want to wear their pants at the waist,
cool, now there’s easier access to they ass.
They wanna stand up on lunch tables like they’re refilming
Fame, cool, that’s just another angle to they ass.
What a glory, imagining a room full of shivering, whimpering
children, barely able to sit, because they thought
respect for their elders was actually optional.

You parents will come home to children
that have never been so happy to see you.
Chores will be done. Homework will be impeccable.
Standardized tests will no longer be the hindrance
for which they were designed.

Grant us just one of your belts.
It doesn’t even have to be the one with the studs.
We will thank you
by giving you extra cause to keep thanking us.


Every school that loses their arts program
is another Coltrane kicked back into the belly.
I have lost interest in sharing statistics that prove
the artist’s financial value. I just want to share
a few names. Yo Yo Ma. Nina Simone. Bill Withers.
Damien Rice. Wolfgang Mozart. Minnie Riperton. Radiohead.
Donny Hathaway. Fleetwood Mac. Sam Cooke. Massive Attack.
Dr. Dre. Jeff Buckley. Franz Schubert. Anita Baker. Sade.
These are just a few that have helped me stay alive.
This is not a metaphor. Every child that loses the chance
to pick up a sax is another album that will never salvage my life.

To put it in your language,
I can’t vote if I’m dead.


In an alternate reality, the White House performance series is
but a silent room. The artists never discovered their gift.
Those that did were not raised to survive a nation
that thrives on their flatline.
Barack Obama is sitting alone, comforted only by
Michelle’s detached but gripping hand.

Somewhere he hears a voice asking, where are they?
His cheeks are wet.
He hears us all in his head.


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