POET: Terisa Siagatonu
Terisa Siagatonu expresses the pain her children in school living in disastrous, dangerous, and disadvantaged areas.

Key Lines/Phrases

Key Line/Phrase

“AK-47 is just another way to identify the apartment number of the boy who just wants to make it to the bus stop tomorrow morning.”

This poem illustrates the problems urban youth grow up with, such as gangs, and how they affect them long-term. They suffer mentally, in school, and at home. Siagatonu compares the everyday life of an urban teen to a soldier at war. They have more in common than you’d think.

Full Transcript of Poem

ok so I’m beginning to learn a lot about this thing called
post-traumatic stress disorder this wartime disease
this combat fatigue diagnosis
and I read something somewhere that I thought
was worth sharing with you all
urban youth are twice as likely to get post-traumatic stress disorder
than soldiers who are coming home from war
so tell me
what is the difference
between homicide in the streets
and bloodshed on the battlefields of Iraq
a battalion of young soldiers
who meant to sign up for the football team
and not the military
they’re all wearing black r.i.p. hoodies
like a triangular folding of this countries flag
a gift to the mother of the pollen
the only difference there is between a tank and a police car
is the speed in which innocent civilians can run when profiled
so those New Jordans you’re wearing
double as a fashion statement and combat boots 
Purple Hearts that my students wear
every time their wounded at war
on their own streets
the way police sirens sound too much like oncoming missiles
whistling in the distance
the way sirens lights don’t mean to look like flash grenades
the way the night doesn’t mean to camouflage their skin into enemy soldier
ak-47 is just another way to identify the apartment number
a boy who just want to make it to the bus stop tomorrow morning
this is all making so much sense now
why I continue to confuse my mother’s hugs
for a straight jacket every time she touches me
the way my high school students
are beginning to look a lot like the aftermath a promise
broken in at the knees
lined up for duty
sitting in desks
waiting for what will come first
death or the school bell
it all comes down to simple arithmetic
if you ask me
when you watch
one thirteen-year-old
homies get their brains blown away
on the corner
where the avenues meet the flats
in a span of one month
how much will it cost before we start wondering
why doesn’t give a damn about school
when is his teacher going to stop sending him to the principal
and start sending him to the counselor
why did we fire the counselor
what happened to the art classes
and PE
and the health center
because trauma is an STD
a socially transmitted disease
meaning my trauma
is your trauma
his trauma
was always mine
and that’s what it means to be in the community
the only difference there his between a soldier with PTSD
and one of my students with it
is that the soldier gets to leave the battlefield
my kids go home to it
but they never really exit the trauma
and cycle the cacophony
like a broken record up a drive-by shooting that never really
then they don’t really have post-traumatic anything
none of them are living long enough to tell their own stories
and for those who do
they’ll grow up hallucinating themselves into thinking
every human touch that comes into contact with their skin
is actually a lieutenant colonel dressed in camouflage
with the boot to their neck and a semi-automatic pointed to the back
up their heads resisting the urge to pull

Artist Comments

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