“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Miss Maudie
Seventh grade fingers
discover the word nigger
as they dog-ear their favorite moments.
Refusing to say the word aloud
in classroom discussions
or write it on reading quizzes,
they rather say “that bad word.”
For them Atticus became the hero
as we all wished he was
our father, neighbor, legal counsel, friend.
They rooted for a not guilty verdict but said
Tom’s storyline was foreshadowed
the day he was born.
I don’t know, but they did it.
They’ve done it before and they did it tonight
and they’ll do it again and when they do
it seems that only children weep.
They shed a tear when Tom was shot 17 times
calling it brutal, excessive, and unnecessary
as my news feed becomes the embodiment of Sophoclean irony
reporting the 6 shots in Michael Brown’s body
reminding me of Amadou Diallo’s 41.
Our courts have their faults,
as does any human institution,
but in this country our courts are the great levelers,
and in our courts all men are created equal.
How do I teach
grace instead of fear
when a uniform approaches
or explain the paradox
of an all-white male jury of one’s peers
deciding men’s fates.
How do I explain rape and domestic violence
to fifteen adolescent girls
when Mayella points her shaky finger at Tom
as her father clenches his fist.
How do I teach that lives matter
when classmates in other schools
make the headlines as victims or instigators.
How do I create a lesson plan for empathy
when Boo Radley is isolated and taunted by his neighbors
like they are in chat rooms or school yards.
Most people are nice when you finally see them.
Sandra Bland was a mockingbird
Trayvon Martin was a mockingbird
Freddy Gray was a mockingbird
Tamir Rice was a mockingbird
Eric Garner was a mockingbird
My sons and daughter are mockingbirds
and thirty mockingbirds sing from these desks
when they highlight the lines:
You never really know a man
until you stand in his shoes
and walk around in them.
Luivette Resto was born in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico but proudly raised in the Bronx. She has served as a contributing poetry editor for Kweli Journal, a CantoMundo fellow, and a member of the advisory board of Con Tinta. Her new book Ascension was published in 2013 by Tia Chucha Press, and was recently selected for the 2014 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. Some of her latest work can be read on Luna Luna Magazine, Toe Good Poetry, and the Altadena Anthology 2015. Currently, she lives in the Los Angeles area.