2021 Editors' Choice Poems

Week 4

“Inside / Outside: Where’re you from?”

by Tezozomoc

When I graduated from Logan elementary school
to Thomas Starr King Jr. High
the world got a lot bigger.

I used to walk a couple of blocks
and I was at my school.

Now, I had to get on the Rapid Transit District Buses,
“Rrteedee” as we used to call it,
because the Prop 13; limiting property taxation.
had killed the free buses.
We used to take
those foul fuel orange Taylor school buses
to help with de-segregation.

We were gullible guppies
in a new foreign fish pond.
Now, the outsiders,
shadowing the crevices
of the PE school yard.

My friend Gato and I ended up
in the bathroom
and we were cornered
by bigger “vatos”
asking, “Where’re you from Ese?”

But we didn’t know
their barrio allegiance.
It was a trap, a catch 22.

You are wondering
why not the logical answer,
“From nowhere.”
That got you an instant beating.
If you said, “Echo Park Trece”
and they were Westside White Fence,
you got a beating.
If you said, “18th St.,”
and they were Clanton Trece,
you got a beating.

It was the ultimate attribution error.
A combination of demonstrably false
assumptions that the observer
from one socially defined group (the ingroup)
often make regarding the behavior
of different socially defined groups (the outgroup).
Something psychologist Thomas Pettigrew
coined back in 1979.

The assumptions the ingroup
makes about the outgroup;
either positive or negative.

This pre-Adam idea goes back
to the concept of polygenesis,
with its origin in the idea
that human races have different origins.

Later contrasted as,
“all men are created equal”,
by Thomas Jefferson in 1776’s
U.S. Declaration of independence.

But years later, in 1787
at the Constitutional Convention,
as 3/5th does not equal 1.

U.S. Constitution Article 1, Section2, Clause 3
Which became known as the Three-fifths compromise,
“and excluding Indians not taxed,
three fifths of all other Persons”
So, how can the founders
look you straight
in the face without
the Chauvin smirk?
Their cognitive dissonance
is overcome with
the fine print,
as summarized by Robert J Young,
in, Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race,
The constitution of the United States proclaimed that ‘all men are created equal’:
the institution of slavery constituted a flagrant breach of that principle.
However, if there were different species of men, created differently, with non-
whites classified as lower species that did not share all the properly human
characteristics, then it could be argued that constitutional equality did not
apply to them.

So, in Urban Dict:
All men are created equal
but only within their race,
not across them.

So, as you can see
my bathroom beating
and the George Floyd situation
share something in common,
The “manipulable situational control’,
that occurs when
the ingroup member perceives
the outgroup members
positive behavior as (1) highly controllable,
yet (2) controlled by forces outside
(rather than within) the outgroup member.
(such as white supremacy and racism).

Chauvin choked Floyd
as if he posed an imminent threat.
Chauvin’s oddly
yet sustained smirk suggests,
“So what if he isn’t fighting back?
My three fellow officers
and I have him surrounded;
of course he’s complying with us!
I had better extinguish
this threat
before he extinguishes me…” (Gaines, 2020)

When you saw Chauvin’s face
seemingly masking emotion;
enunciating his arrogant racist smirk
we clearly saw
a particularly grotesque prejudice
Chauvin continue to operate
under the auspices
of the enshrined white privileges.

When Judge Peter Cahill read
Verdict Count One.
Court file number 27 CR 2012646.
We, the Jury, in the above entitled matter
as to count one,
Unintentional Second Degree Murder While Committing a Felony,
find the defendant Guilty.

Mr. Chauvin’s erratic eye behavior
shattered the operation norm
of being in the realm of stereotypes.
This was not a colored court
that no jurisdiction on him.

Verdict Count Two.
Third Degree Murder Perpetrating an Eminently Dangerous Act,
find the defendant Guilty.

Verdict Count Three.
Second Degree Manslaughter, Culpable Negligence
Creating an Unreasonable Risk,
find the defendant Guilty.

The ultimate attribution error
Derek Chauvin, a police officer
of European descent,
responding to a stereotype
regarding African-descent people,
in general,
disregarding the actual behavior
of George Floyd, in particular,
killed George Floyd,
an African-descent detainee,
being predisposed
toward violence
even when completely subdued,
in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020.

Alanna Shaikh headshot

Tezozomoc is a Los Angeles Chicano Poet and 2009 Oscar Nominated Activist and has been published by Floricanto Press, “Gashes!: Poems and Pain from the halls of injustice”, a collection of poetry, ISBN-13: 978-1951088040, 9/2019. He has also been published in the following journals/anthologies: 2021 Boundless Anthology, 4/15/2021, Rigorous Journal, 9/21/2020, Red Earth Productions & Cultural Work, 12/17/2019, Underwood Press, 9/9/2019, Mom Egg Review, 5/6/2019, Love Letters to Gaia, An Anthology, 4/20/2021, Los Angeles Poets for Justice, 03/15/2021, I Can’t Breathe, A Social Justice Literary Magazine, 8/20/2020.

“Social Distancing”

by Quentin Brown

I saw you in the supermarket today

1.5 metres away

I couldn’t hug you
So I just waved

Alanna Shaikh headshot

Quentin Brown is a 19-year-old author based in Adelaide who writes poetry and stories for young adults. His work has been featured in numerous publications, festivals, radio shows, and local protests defending the rights of marginalised groups.

“Midlife Crisis at 18”

by Laya Reddy

My hair falls like autumn leaves                     not at all,
and all at once;                        I know my father’s tragedy:
Bald at 23,                               a greying halo for a legacy.

Amma churns coconut oil,                  milk & honey for the hair.
Fingers massage                                              thinning forests of black strands:
She tells me I am wilting.                                            Tells me I am papery.
Tells me I am my grandmother,
And can’t I eat more fish.

Wreaths of frozen tangles                   drape the carpeting
mark my lethargic trails                      through a wintry house. I remember
medical gloves: rubber sieves                   sifting through my falling crown.

& showers are pain                 because O, my hair is leaving me.
A corpse trailing my body      and circling my drain. And I can almost hear
someone taunting, O Rapunzel, let down—

Sunshine returns slowly         in cicada burrs under the back porch,
in naked buds on trees.           I have never felt so
lush:                bands of black locks                radiating as a dark halo.

I am sleeping in Bermuda                    grass, so far away                   and not at all;
A shadow falls                        —my father’s face above me,
his bald head shining.              My eyes reopen in summer honey.

Laya Reddy is a South Asian writer and high school senior from the Northern Suburbs of Chicago. Her writing has been recognized by the National Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards and the Adroit Journal. Her poems have been published by the Live Poets Society of New Jersey, Canvas Literary Journal, elementia literary magazine, and more. She enjoys experimental cooking and acrylic painting in her free time.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash