Socratic

The students know the agenda. When I step
inside our classroom, the PowerPoint is loaded,
the student presenting her report stands poised

to begin. And so she does. This day is her
second try, the first a wash due to our failed
technology. I ask, Do you think you will earn

another chance each time error is out of your hands?
This day, a new day, she stands confident,
prepared for questions from her peers, the one

question she’s noted that I ask of them all — 
What is it that this artist has allowed you
to achieve? This day, I forget the other

questions I always wait to ask. This day, they ask
no others, just stare outside at the lot
of parked cars, play with the ends of their hair.

They want to hear voices that give them reason
to listen. They want the blare of car horn,
tires screeching without a final thud. They

want a lecture, a formula that does it all,
a recitation of the method that always gets
things done. And one woman says it, that she

is sad, and all of them nod, and another says
that she is angry, too. And how could they
not indict. And why won’t justice ever be

served. And why won’t anyone do anything
to change the America in which we live. And
I look at my classroom — the brown, the black,

and the white of my room — and I ask who
it is that must make the change we need.
And they talk about the Government. They

talk about the System. They talk about our
Economics. And our Judges. And our Juries.
They. And they tell me of their lives, their fears,

their boyfriends and their fathers, our illness
and our poverty, their rights and their desires,
how none of us are ever safe. And the room

becomes their last surrender while they wait
for me to teach. I say, This is the part where
you wait for me to synthesize your words

then tell you what to do. And every face
grows hopeful, just as we all did the night
before, before we knew what we’ve always

known, that knowing the truth doesn’t save
us. And I take a sip of water and tell them
every true thing that I know — that they are

the power who will save what needs saving,
then answer their next questions with more
and more questions, asking until time is up.