Practical Math for Young Black Males

Photo: © Stephane Cocke. All rights reserved.

A group of eighth grade boys are talking in class about
which Jordans are best
& insulting each other’s edges
instead of doing the assigned math worksheet.
I could say something, but they’re laughing,
& I can’t bring myself to scold them
because too much of this life will do that for me
& I figure fractions can wait a few more days.

Someone they know bought a
gutted-out car for 400 dollars but
at least it’s a car, they agree, a way to get out
& I can hear the envy dripping from their voices.
Then another asks if they had heard so & so’s cousin
was shot up last Friday & then silence so heavy
it drowns the whole room—

Everything underwater
Everything moving in slow motion
Everything gasping for air,

& one boy says,
I don’t wanna grow up, man
& the look in his eyes makes me want to stop time,
because eighth grade is the end of innocence.

According to statistics, two out of five will drop out of high school.
I will not speak of those who will live in prisons because I cannot bear
to think of those soft, melanin-kissed hands someday grasping bars.

But for now, fuck all the statistics.
For now, try as they might, statistics can’t touch these boys.
For now, they’re in eighth grade, comparing shoes & laughing,
kids for just a few moments longer;

caught between a world of innocence & one that
swallows boys like them whole.

 

by Emily Adams-Aucoin

 

Emily Adams-Aucoin writes from South Louisiana where she also works as a middle school English teacher and a licensed massage therapist. Her goal in life is to help others whenever possible. She has been writing poetry since the age of twelve as a way of trying to understand the beautiful and terrible world around her. Her published poetry is forthcoming in K’in, and has been published in After the Pause.

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