an open letter to the secretary who asked how i haven’t taken to drink or schedule 1 narcotics like so many of our colleagues
my inward rolling eyes consider the twenty-six
administrators in seven years, including
the principal who put a pregnant woman
in a headlock, who said I gave the Hispanics
a soccer ball, so what more do they want?
another arrested for battering his wife. the week
it took for IT to realize our new emails said “pubic
school.” the budget cuts and bomb threats. fire drills,
tornado drills, chemical spill drills. the porn
accident in physics class. the students discussing
which of us would take a bullet with their names on it,
later seen in handcuffs, cages, caskets. the cancers
and car crashes. the substitute who dropped her panties
and shat on the wheelchair ramp inside the library.
the teacher caught shirtless with a 14 year-old
in her car. the sleepless nights holding secrets like hands
after abortions, miscarriages, and becoming a godfather.
i don’t know how to answer, save showing you
a blank page and a pen filled with blood.
By MEH (Matthew E. Henry)
an open letter to the white girls caught chanting “NIGGER” on Snapchat, again
how privileged you are the social stigma
of being a racist lingers for only a week.
that white woman tears wash away the stench
that should follow the shit still stuck to
the roof of your mouth. but it’s not your fault.
you don’t know that words have meanings
or histories. and it is “so unfair” that we “get to say It”—
this “reverse racism” which makes you too uncomfortable
to sing our songs outside of monochromatic parties
fueled by Sour Dabs and White Claw.
but you weren’t singing.
your coven chanted your “word of the night”
as if to summon Jim Crow and Judge Lynch
from their light slumber. it’s our fault
you never had the ovicular fortitude to laugh-slur
in front of we who must now endure an apology
as honest as your hair compared to its roots.
and as your parents rush to protect your fragile backs
from the whips and lash of eyes as you pass
through the halls, the right whispers calling you
exactly what you are, your former teacher
has only one question—avoided by administration
cautioned by legal counsel—which “nigger”
replaced my name? replaced Chris and La Toya’s?
Hannah and Timothy’s? Michael and Anthony’s?
Nneoma and Ashanti’s? Shaniah and Ashley’s?
By MEH (Matthew E. Henry)
Matthew E. Henry (MEH) is a multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominated poet and short story writer. His works are appearing or forthcoming in various publications, including Bryant Literary Review, Kweli Journal, Longleaf Review, Ploughshares, Poetry East, The Radical Teacher, Rhino, Rigorous, Rise Up Review, Spillway, Tahoma Literary Review and 3Elements Literary Review. The author of Teaching While Black (Main Street Rag, 2020), MEH is an educator who received his MFA from Seattle Pacific University, yet continued to spend money he didn’t have completing an MA in theology and a PhD in education. His work can be found on www.MEHPoeting.com.