The English Teacher

Standard
When I told them how Jim Crow
made prisons of
bathrooms, restaurants,
candy stores, schools

and how the school bus forced
colored kids into a ditch,
(too black to ride)
and justice finally failed
even Sunday school girls,

they looked askance,
narrowing their eyes
and asked how people
could be so unfair,

so I showed them.

Six million gone
with the careless wave
of the Kommandant’s baton,
and Anne, discovered and reduced
to words on a page.

Their eyes grew suddenly old and grave.

Now
asking them to write April poems,
I say,
look at the cold spring day…
wind blowing
through restless trees,
rain filling the land to
make it green,

but instead they sing dirges,
of children who murder,
and children who die.

So why should I be surprised ?
They did not make this world
and I cannot lie.

Author notes

(after reading “The History Teacher” by Billy Collins)

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