not really a full poem

“Everyone says how pretty I am and how much they want to be like me. I thank them. But why can’t I believe them?” (r.i.d)

beauty & her beast

i. you fall in love with a girl
who is made of art and fairytales
and spirals of watercolors
in shades of rose petals

she is beautiful, and she is sad
she wears smiles like crowns
you wish she would breathe easier
(you wish you could breathe easier
around her)

ii. you are standing in a forest
waiting for the truth in stars
and chasing moonlight
your reflection in the river is twisted
a monster looks you in the eyes

the moon is full and empty tonight
as silver as your fur
wolves aren’t made for loving
(and who could ever learn
to love a beast?)

iii. you fall in love with a girl
who makes you feel human
her life is a masquerade ball
and you are made of masks

she sings laughter into your skin
the night sky fades
and the tides pull away from shore
drowning you in freedom

iv. you are standing on two feet
color fills your world
there are wolves in this forest
there is truth in these stars

v. you are in love with a girl
who carries poetry in her smiles
the sun sinks over the forest
she is in love with a wolf

— M.J.


no. that isn’t right.


still no good.


the world does not end.
it is still saved.

the world rebuilds its defences,
with fragile hands that shake against the ocean tide,
the world mends its broken bones and kisses its own bruises.
the world does not burn or freeze, crumble or flood.
there is time. there is time.
there is still time.


Boy, we both know you did not grow up
in an easy home–
that your mother was a freight train
of Christian gospel, that your father
took his fists and laid tracks in your skin.
We know how you tried to be good for them:
good little Catholic boy–sits himself in confession
two times a week, telling god about the men
who made you weak in the knees, telling god
you were sorry
when you weren’t.
And you shouldn’t have had to be.
Catholic boy in a home like hot stove:
your mother’s love, a cast iron skillet–
too heavy for a boy your age to carry,
left burns like stigmata on your fingers.
Mama called them recompense.
Your mother’s love was big enough
for an abusive husband, but still too small
for a gay son.
How many times were you put on your knees
in the church of a god you didn’t believe in
and told to beg a ghost for forgiveness?
Boy, what they did to you was not salvation.
It was betrayal.
—  excerpt from MAMA’S WHIPPING POST by Ashe Vernon

I watched my classmates learn today
The lesson was current events
Our assignment
was to study Isis
by looking up passages in the Quran
that justified jihad
I listened in horror
as they read of beheadings
and stonings
and removing fingers
with a certain relish
that comes from superiority
and as the teacher agreed
and explained how ISIS is using
those passages
to justify extremism
I saw them learning

Not deep
all-consuming hate
but the subtle hate
the kind that whispers
“you are better than
these strange aliens
see, how they are barbarians
compared to you
see, you are not the same”
the seductive kind
that settles
and gives false promises
of knowledge
and understanding
I saw them settle in their seats
and satisfied
with the course of their day
believing that now, of course
they understood everything

I wanted to stand up
and shriek that
I wanted to tell the boy
with a cross hanging around his neck
who spoke in a kind of wonder
at his newfound epiphany of
“No wonder they’re like that,
if this is the kind of thing they read,”
that he has no ground to stand on
I wanted to shove a Bible at him
and demand that he highlight
of murder
and rape
and betrayal
before he stand there and condemn
an entire holy script
for passages that are no worse
than the ones he learned in Sunday school

I wanted to share the story
of the kindest girl I knew
at elementary school
who always made time to walk
with the loneliest kid on the playground
so I wouldn’t have to feel so abandoned
who stayed out of the cafeteria
for a month every year
who wore a snow-white hijab
and carried herself
with a possessed, quiet air
radiating serenity
from long, flowing clothing

I wanted to tell them about my uncle
And his copy of the Quran that my father still has on his shelves
I wanted to read them some of the verses underlined with pencil
that speak of peace
and community
and faithfulness
to try and make them listen
before condensing all they have learned
into simply

I wanted to stand on my chair and scream
because how DARE they condemn
how DARE they learn of the five sacred pillars
right next to ISIS
and think them the same
how dare the teacher forever associate those two things in their minds
how dare these same students who stand
and recite the words they were brainwashed into learning every morning
before they even learned what they meant
and so never question them now
still exclaim with outrage
over young children learning prayers

I wanted to demand, more than anything else
How dare you think yourselves different?
How dare you restrict your worldview?
How dare you take these stories
and half-tell and forget them?
I wanted to ask the teacher
How dare you spend fifteen minutes
giving us the basics of faith
on a five-year-old worksheet
and three hours
expounding on the hatred of extremists
detailing how they are ruthless
and cunning
and out to kill all who don’t share their faith?

I wanted to object to this entire exercise
I wanted to walk out of the room
I wanted to yell at everyone
Until they opened their eyes
beyond their new
and tried to learn the full story
without having it spoonfed to them
but in the end
I simply sat
staring at my hands
while my classmates learned hate
and dismissal
of issues a world away from them
with careless laughter.


March 20


“What my classmates learned today.”