I never dreamed one day
I’d be parsing a picture book
explaining to five year olds that yes,
a black man was shot
by someone who hated him
because of the color of his skin,
and before he died he had a Dream
for children Just like them.
After the story (required),
they—with their earnest,
“was he real, teacher?” “yes, he was,”
and me with my tears welling up,
held at bay (“I’m the grown up here, after all”)
stunned at their beautiful innocence,
so sure of what they believe
too young to know any other truth,
with their small-ish hands placed
in front of them,
like so many skin-made flowers,
a spontaneous array of color
spread across the carpet.
And their words,
Again and again,
“but I’m just like her, She’s just like him.
They shouldn’t have done that.
Why did they shoot him?
We’re all just the same, teacher.”
And me shuttered speechless,
nodding, mumbling, tears on my cheeks,
Bungling words that should never be said
To five year olds, “They killed him because
They didn’t know what you know—
We’re all just the same, honey,
Yes we are.
We’re all just the same.”
©Jody Lee Collins 2016