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Photo courtesy of Brandi Redd

Poetry

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.

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