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Poetry Submission: ‘Nineteen’

by Shealea Iral

What are the hard sciences? you ask to the class
a person from the back answers
your right hand briefly dances in the air
an obviously dismissive gesture
and light laughter forces its way out of your weary throat
now let’s forget about the hard sciences

Let’s not
I sit there mutely, hands neatly folded
on my lap; imperceptibly shaking
why should I? I want to ask
but I do not
I protest in silence

I mean, the phrase tumbles from your cracked lips
like the aftershock of an earthquake;
as if your ignorance and blind allegiance
to a false dichotomy constructed and
advocated by a bigoted society
are not damaging enough
that’s why we’re here isn’t it?

No, it isn’t
that is not why I am here
the frustration builds up into a
lump, lodging itself halfway through
my larynx and still,
I protest in silence

There’s a reason why we are taking up communication
and not science

Yes, there is
the answer immediately
pieces itself together in my mind
like a careful arrangement of wildflowers
the reason being: this is what I want to do
not because it is the only thing I can do

Stop coating my skin in smears of
black and white paint
when I have a spectrum of larger colors
lying just underneath my lashes
and my vision surpasses
the limits of your rose-tinted glasses

Stop dictating my destination
when I was born into
this world to travel its body; leave footprints
on the beaches of every island, sing songs
to each sea as I walk on them, and build bridges
wedding one continent to the next

Stop reinforcing the notion
that I cannot appreciate the
art in fireworks and tell whether they’re
made from barium or copper;
that the only plots I understand are found
in novels and not on Cartesian planes

Stop manipulating me into making
a choice I shouldn’t have to;
as if a writer cannot count and a scientist
cannot find poetry in entropy, in the knowledge
that the universe favors chaos
as if I am incapable of being both

Stop trying to change me
when I was in elementary, I was
taught that my brain is a convergence of
two different hemispheres
and with finality, I refuse to let you
saw me in half


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