Where We Stare

Karen peers into her wine glass,
doubting that the dark red of the Cabernet
is as pure as it seems-
Why? Because the voice of waitress whose footsteps are now fading
was laden heavy
with the pungency of Jamaica.
She stares
at the things
that she thinks
threaten her.
Her prejudice.

Linda grabs the nylon fabric of her son’s Superman backpack,
and he stumbles as she yanks him closer-
Why? Because God forbid he sees the saliva
that drools down the face
of the boy who sits across from them
in a wheelchair.
She turns away
from the things
that she doesn’t understand.
Her ignorance.

Joey stares at his dirt-caked shoelaces,
afraid to raise his tear-brimmed eyes so much as an inch-
Why? Because Daddy’s scathing words
are ringing in his ears
surprisingly louder
than his ears are ringing with Daddy’s blows.
He turns away
from the people
who hurt him.
His sadness.

I gaze, unbelieving, at the creased letter in my hands,
For the black ink is blurred
where a tear must have fallen from her eye-
Why? Because the words
with which she breaks my brother’s heart
must have pained her
as much as they sting him.
I stare
at the things
whose repercussions
devastate me.
My empathy.

What if,
for acceptance,
and support,
and strength,
and justice,
We looked
within ourselves?

Sarah Rodeo, Age 17, Grade 12, The Hewitt School, Silver Key

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