Carnegie Mellon University

Third Place for High School Poetry (tie)

"the fancy media company uses the word 'slave' to describe machines controlled by the master computer"

my school bus used to drive past a youth prison every morning. i would sit in the
window seat directly behind the driver and wait for Western and Lake where i searched
for the bodies of the imprisoned boys pressed against the glass. i would count each face,
memorizing them, so i could draw them to mind as i prayed at the dinner table that
night. i spent 3 years of high school, studying the faces of the boys, learning the beauty
in each one. now, my best friend makes theatre in the concrete building on the corner of
Western and Lake where some of the boys spent my entire high school career. Every
time i see one of her shows, the boys feed us cookies that some 14 year old’s made us for
60 cents an hour. each of their faces starts to glow when i thank them. every single one
of them could have had a future just like mine, one that involved a fancy university that
can afford media servers just like this one. the boys, they all look at me like i’m a pipe
dream, they look at all the visitors in that same misty way. like we could just up and
disappear and they wouldn’t be surprised. every single boy in that place is loved and
deserves to be shown that love loudly. i sit in this classroom full of white people and they
casually throw around the word “slave” like i haven’t had that word etched into my brain
like some sort of sick branding. i am everywhere but in my seat, anything but focused. i
try to remember the faces of the boys that i would memorize 5 years ago, baptize them
all “wanted,” give them the space to be whatever they desire, to roam wherever they
want to roam, even if it’s only in my brain. my white classmates have never known
slavery. they have never looked it in the face and known that they are lucky to not be in
the concrete facility, right along with boys who look just like you. these white people will
never understand just how inherent this type of survivor’s guilt is. i’ve spent my whole
life regretting my own freedom.