Cain roams the world without a rest.
The street hood strolls into my classroom
to have his turn at making palimpsest,
to write over the first fratricide’s doom.
He just strolls into my classroom
to spill some brother’s blood,
to write over the first fratricide’s doom,
clueless of a choice to stem this flood.
No. He’ll spill some brother’s blood,
scouring each row as he takes a seat.
Clueless of a choice to stem this flood,
he turns that imperative stare on me,
chooses a row, takes a seat: Where is he?
Do you belong here? Could not help but ask.
He trades that stare for tongue in cheek—
hell, yeah, Miss umm…I belong in your class.
Do you belong here? Could not help but ask;
behind the malice was a young man,
who yes, for a moment belonged in my class.
The light of ancient wisdom had chiseled its plan
behind the malice mask of this young man—
a heritage of creative power, virility.
There, in his brow, wisdom chiseled its plan
for a Homer’s or a Griot’s ability.
But over creative power, virility,
Cain rises in a frowning forehead,
a haughty chin—over Homer’s ability,
the Griot’s grace, he grouses instead:
What you lookin’ at? Cain’s mark is on his head.
He’s my brother, but not for me to keep—
over wisdom’s grace, he takes hate instead—
You leave now, or I call security.
My voice weeps for the brother I cannot keep.
The door clicks thunder behind him.
Soon after, he shoots my student for security
on the word of a slighted friend.
I watch police slam car doors behind them,
the coroner cover vacant eyes, miss a shoe,
and wonder if, a slighted friend
might someday serve Cain his fair due.
Later, I recall vacant eyes, the shoe,
as I wield my chalk to make palimpsest
of hopes we’ll someday serve him his fair due—
by razing Cain to give our world a rest.
Olga Dugan is a Cave Canem poet. Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, her poems appear in many literary journals and anthologies including Ekstasis, Relief: A Journal of Art and Faith, Sky Island Journal, Channel (Ireland), Cathexis Northwest Press, Kweli, The Windhover, The Write Launch, The Southern Quarterly, Poems from Pandemia – An Anthology, Cave Canem Anthology: XIII, and Red Moon Anthology of Modern English Haiku. Articles on poetry and cultural memory appear in The Journal of African American History, The North Star, and in Emory University’s “Following the Fellows.”