Secondary: Student Poetry

Fera Gunawan Times News

As the grade 12 students prepare to read their final Shakespearian play of high school (Othello), I give them an anticipatory activity before we begin the play. Students are asked to read a ‘play on words that are black and white’, and a ‘poem written from the perspective of a black mother giving advice to her son’. It soon becomes apparent that one theme of this play will deal with race relations and racism. Students then are asked to do a free write in response to either anticipatory piece they read. Here is Aidan C.’s creative response. Enjoy.
Rebekah Loconote, Humanities Teacher

i wasn’t yellow yesterday
I wasn’t yellow yesterday
No, it wasn’t because I was tired
Of being the nuclear shade of Heinz sitting in my fridge
It wasn’t because I hate my people,
Or even as some sort of political message

I went to school
Princely pale, nobly nude, sovereignly spectral,
Dressed head to toe
In the emperor’s new clothes
Because for once,
I was not yellow

I was not the girl next door,
Playing cello in front of the prime minister,
Or manipulating keys at Carnegie

I was not the boy in my Kumon class
Whose eomma, māma, mæ̀, or nanay
Polishes medals, awards, and ribbons
Day after day

I was not Fu Manchu
Or the Chinaman
Or any name the man with the cane
Called me the day before

I wasn’t anything
Or anyone for that matter
I was the abstract,
The labelless,
The expectation-free

I wasn’t yellow yesterday
When the model few became the big
When the yellow of my brothers and sisters was stained orange
And I won’t be yellow tomorrow
Aidan C.