Service Hours – A Poem by Gaia Rajan

Service Hours

So here’s the story. Alice and Talia and I
on a bus to save the children, the teacher
stopwatch-marking hours, penciling them in
as if after forty hours we’d be saved,
or they would, these kids we couldn’t know.
Framed in sunlight, haloed without us. The bus
loved potholes. At least we’re getting our hours
in, right. Community service. Mandatory
care. The bus driver put the radio on and
we cranked our music up to drown
it out. Bullets on the pavement like shiny
flowers. Alice and Talia and I promised
each other rumors, crossed our fingers
the girls in the seat behind us wouldn’t
hear. The teacher in the front: those poor
kids. At least we’re here.
And I smiled
like everyone else but I couldn’t stop thinking
about how white colonists said all they wanted
to do was help, they were made to be there, to save
them. Insert loss, of course. Insert empty
chambers. Insert blood. Insert my people’s blood
on diamonds now in museums, and the bus
stalled again, and the song screamed what if
you cared, cared about me.
If I jumped
off the bus, flew to the ground, knew the other
in sunlight. I am the other in someone else’s
fantasy, but that doesn’t matter
now, does it. What if by seeking to save
we hurt. If by wanting to learn we killed.

Gaia Rajan @gaia_writes lives in Andover, MA. She’s the Managing Editor of The Courant and the Poetry Editor of Saffron Literary. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in DIALOGIST, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Split Lip Magazine, Hobart, Rust+Moth, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, “Moth Funerals,” is forthcoming from Glass Poetry Press in fall, and she is a National Student Poet semifinalist. She is sixteen years old. 

Banner Art: Points of Light in a Shelter by Robert Frede Kenter

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