Required Reading

For those of you who think

that words are just words,

let me boil it down

to simple arithmetic:

he views me as less than,

not equal to.

And the dividends of this interaction

amount to which side of the equation

I fall on:

pretty and silent or

ugly and defiant.

I am not your afterschool special,

your China doll –

a toy to be tossed away

during clean up time.

There’s no dignity but

class is in session.

And what do they teach

about the certain order of things?


Parentheses first.

My wild hypotheticals

are really parentheticals

but those two curved lines on either side

do nothing to cushion the blow.

Pretty (girl).

Silent (submissive).

Ugly (chink).

Defiant (bitch).

They are neither compliments nor complements

and your false binaries

do not belong in our vernacular.

Pretty = silent.

Girl = submissive.

Ugly = chink.

Defiant = bitch.

Students understand that

an equation is a statement of equality

between two expressions –

your words do not beget

my silence,

my compliance.

They do not deserve my defiance.

When values are substituted for variables in an equation,

the equation is either true

or false.

In other words:

we find values to assign to variables

in equations to make them true statements.

Pretty is the variable –

silent is the value that replaces it.

If we believe in this parallel construction

then equality starts to look

more and more like two bars

on a cage that doubles as a pedestal

where the only variable

is whether or not

we value who’s inside it.


For those of you who think

that words are just words,

consider this:

an equation is only true

as long as the values contained within it

remain the same.


The half-life of silence is forever.

Ruth Chen1 Comment