I genuflect at Mass, stealing fleeting glances of my sons’ hands in prayer—tender, unburdened by veins or violence, unscathed. I redirected my attention, prayed that whoever feared their black bodies would soon unlearn myth and space and threat.
Theobald Kristeller settled into his chair in the early printed text room of the British Library. The reading area was deathly quiet, save when one of the youngish, gung-ho librarians stumbled upon someone not using one of the book cradles properly, or writing notes in pen. Theo had himself once been upbraided for letting a first edition of Robert Persons’s De Persecutione Anglicana slip into his lap. “But it’s Persons!” he had exclaimed incredulously. “No one cares about Robert Persons!”
Behind her, Tianna laughs. “Listen to her,” she guffaws. She repeats “dark with anguishhh,” in her white girl voice, the words theatrically elongated. “Who you tryna be?” Tianna’s laughter ripples around the room. Monae turns quickly back and stares down at her desk. Her face burns. Miss McCorkle ineffectively repeats, “Students, students,” but all the eighth graders are so relieved to be pulled away from this impossible poem and given something familiar to ridicule that they laugh and laugh.
MQR goes back to school! Read a cluster of poems, stories, and essays that talk about life in the classroom and the world of academe—work by Rebecca Makkai, Kelsey Ronan, Cindy Clem, Stephen Burt, Douglas Trevor, and Eileen Pollack
Poetry by Karen An-hwei Lee and Li Qingzhao
Fiction by Matthew Baker, Colin Fleming, and David Lynn