space girl: prologue

by Dynas Johnson

the author of our textbooks          spilled bleach onto the pages            so the students got sick the more
they tried to understand        in classrooms with barred windows            and no paper or pencils          
teachers try to reach the children                   but the children know where they’re headed             space girl knows
once while reading about the origins of her nation                   she realized that she didn’t see herself anywhere
when she raised her hand and asked her teachers               they didn’t know either               told her she asked           
too many questions

what no one had to tell her          is that anytime her people are seen anywhere              it’s as shadows
no one had to tell her why           the people in blue be snatching starlets            that it only takes a shiny silver          projectile          to turn a light               into a ghost           mothers dream               of stardust across the black
concrete           when friends and family erect another memorial           of stuffed animals                 space girl counts
the new gaps in the cosmos          wonders what happens when stars are snuffed out          at every corner store          there’s at least twenty ghosts        smoking cigarettes          or dancing        while their aunties and uncles and
cousins recite their stories

the women she knows          are all half-there happy or halfway gone             she only knows because
they have the strong habit of attending church          and praying every night          but their dreams are still held
up somewhere            their youth gone and nothing to show for it except children          that don’t speak

to each other               and men who don’t know        how to hold them          because the world never gave them
anything          except the fear that anything held                 will be taken

space girl knew from a young age          that the place that she lived in          didn’t want her kind         space girl
stopped caring about approval        space girl was worried about finding the ghosts that left her behind        

space girl wanted to know          why her momma couldn’t sleep at night anymore         and why her daddy told her to be careful when she left the house                 when she told
her momma and daddy that she dreamed

of going back home            that she wanted to take them somewhere better               they told her to save up money
to buy a house          go to school and get a good education                   go further than us

when they gave her her name               they it over and over again         a prayer      so that at least if she fell
she’d be strong enough to rise again    

space girl has been doing her research          space girl knew that the textbooks were written          by the same
people who want her gone          space girl watched her neighborhood slowly disappear         beneath billboards
and new roads and pretty new condos                         space girl wanted to know why they were trying so hard

remapping the narrative          space girl decided that she was going to find out why          when the world told her
that her constellation was a mistake                   she smiled    

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