Search this website

What Lawmakers Really Mean When They Say "High Poverty Districts" RSS

What Lawmakers Really Mean When They Say "High Poverty Districts"

02 April, 2021: What Lawmakers Really Mean When They Say "High Poverty Districts"

Read a Poem

What Lawmakers Really Mean When They Say 'High Poverty Districts'

By Quartez Harris

what we do know for certain is that their low property taxes are a result of their own undoing. they should mow the lawn, gather all the beer caps, tape their blinds. in exchange, their poor property values will grow gold chains and platinum teeth. on their streets are holes in the walls with black churches screwed inside each one of them. these churches should empty out the pockets of their offerings - feed the mouths of neighborhood schools instead of preaching for parity. the audacity to solicit ... but can’t even pull weeds out from their own mouths. they get what they ruined. broken homes breed broken schools: cause and effect. bellowing for change? change is supposed to crawl from the birth canal at home. lucky we handed over a building to cradle their babies while they devoured drugs for dinner, while licking the faces of their flat screens. ridiculous how they don’t see us as gods. urban communities should bow to the schools we built from marshlands. what will their children learn at home? how to dissect a blunt? how to spoon feed guns as sunflowers? how to kill each other faster? these schoolhouses keep the lights on inside their kids' bodies. urban children don’t give teachers a reason to teach. only reasons to monitor. next, we should install new locks inside their throats

“What Lawmakers Really Mean When They Say ‘High Poverty Districts’” by Quartez Harris, from We Made It To School Alive. Twelve Arts Press. 2020. Used by permission of the author. 
Quartez Harris, born in Springfield, Ohio, is the author of the full-length collections We Made It To School Alive and Nothing, But Skin (Writing Knights Press, 2014). He is the first recipient of the Barbara Smith Writer-in-Residence fellowship from Twelve Literary Arts. His work appeared in the poetry anthology, Garden of Black Joy (Wise Ink Creative Publishing), and he was selected a Baldwin House Fellow and featured reader for the 2019 Cleveland Drafts Festival. Courted by McKinnon Literary agency to produce his debut young adult novel, he is an educator who lives in Cleveland with his son.

Write a Poem

Write a poem about a fictional person or family from your youth like Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Huxtables, the Marches, Chico (of Chico and the Man) or Harriet the Spy….

I so wanted to be her.
People listened to her and valued what she had to say, what she had to contribute.
Not perfect but persistent.
Not arrogant but confident.
She was brave and she had adventures.
Nancy Drew was her name, and I longed for it to be mine.
4/7/2021 10:27:01 AM

I wanted to be them
For 30 minutes on Sunday night
Air it,
Then a clean slate till next week
Tree House of Horrors and other specials
Irreverent yet not off limits

They never aged
Kept going no matter the trouble
Chances, at the mercy of
A cartoonist's pen and imagery
Clever, cool, fun
We resembled them,
And they us...
If only we were cartoons

More in touch with pop culture
Than any adult
Entertained and educated us
They're still on
30 odd years later
I don't watch as much
Somehow I feel
I never stopped
4/5/2021 7:40:17 PM

The blog poem today... "they get what they ruined." Preach.
4/4/2021 7:17:01 PM

my poem (sort of misunderstood the prompt at first, but I think it still works):

our love
was the saddest fiction
i'd ever written--
its lines punctuated
with plagiarized daydreams--
and it was left unfinished,
in the drawer
of my bedside table.
4/4/2021 7:13:20 PM

Re: What Lawmakers Really Mean When They Say 'High Poverty Districts'
By Quartez Harris

I feel your words echoing from the past trying to etch a future for generations not yet ready to move on from a syndrome that has yet to be broken.
Truth - beautifully expressed. I would love to see this shared on social media.
4/3/2021 7:08:00 PM

Cathy Barber
Quartez, thank you for this. So powerful.
4/3/2021 10:16:15 AM

Sierra Polsinelli
Fictional Friends

Hour after hour
I would read
taken on so many journeys
by day and by night

A red headed girl
with long pigtails.
An independent girl
with freckles and long stockings.
wishing it was me.

Then came a bear and a peaceful wood, with animals that talk, each one a specialist.
The Smart Owl
The Grumpy Donkey
The Motherly Kangaroo
The Innocent Joey
The Fussy Rabbit
The Rambunctious Tiger
The Trusting Pig
The Oh So Thoughtful Bear
He was a wonder, that bear,
and he always worked IT out,
with a little help and a healthy
smackeral of Honey
4/2/2021 5:20:33 PM

Bill Ritz
Yes. Accurate. Mowed lawns, local churches providing out-reach, strong families contributing to strong schools, etc. are all positives that are conspicuously absent in some neighborhoods. Well expressed.
4/2/2021 5:00:15 PM

Laurie K
Powerful piece, Quartez. Thank you!
4/2/2021 3:23:53 PM

Contribution for day two--Poetry month.


April 2021 Poetry Month-Day 2. Today's prompt: A fictional person or family from your childhood.

Time was,
I believed Mama’s cheeks had that rosy hue
because they caught fire every morning, burning well past noon.

Truth was,
she’d skinned her soul against gravel laid for our welfare
by Brezhnev’s third cousin.
It happened in our front yard one spring day.
Like any good Moldovan-survivor
she walked where the soldiers told her to walk.
Like any successful Moldovan, she fell, face down.
That’s why her cheeks were red—it was her blood,
not sunlight mixed from fire.
Blood disappears as evening approaches,
yet congeals the next morning, like a weeping scab.
You hear it gurgling inside every voice.

Conceding reality,
Bendery, Moldova was a long time back and mostly forgotten.
But I continue to lift my face one second at a time every morning.
Just like Mama, I always see the sky first thing.
Even so, my face never actually catches fire.

Basic point?
It’s hard to wake up in America,
to remember Mama’s face with the shadow of Russia
descending like a red sky turning black.
The sky should be Moldova—my song should be for Mama’s country,
the grand-parents, whose graves have been disturbed,
a new generation of bone piled on top of us.
We’ve been crowded out, as usual.
It shouldn’t happen. But it does.

In retrospect,
now, I see two kinds of light in this world:
one rages at the edge of my American driveway.
Once a week, a white, city truck rolls by way too slowly,
its driver making eye contact.
Will he heal us; or scratch what’s left of our faces
until every one of us catches fire, chooses a flag
or becomes the sun.

© 2021 Tovli
4/2/2021 12:59:28 PM

RE: What Lawmakers Really Mean When They Say 'High Poverty Districts'

powerful metaphors and images.
4/2/2021 12:53:35 PM

Mary M. Chadbourne
"Howl" redux in the burgeoning of White supremacy and privilege, the haters rationalizing the "fruit" of their hatred. You captured it all. Superb!
4/2/2021 9:58:54 AM

"...audacity to solicit...but can't even pull weeds out of their own mouths." Yes, that is what they really mean. This poem turns the light on and shines it back at them. Thank you!
4/2/2021 9:50:21 AM

READ + WRITE: 30 Days of Poetry is a collaboration between Cuyahoga County Public Library and poet Diane Kendig. Our thanks go to Diane and the poets of Northeast Ohio who allowed us to share their poetry.