Greetings to Hannah S. Jones

Dear lovely daughter,

Let us always expect full respect, nothing less.
People will offer us much less at times,
even hurl disrespect at us
like fire and ice.

We have inherited tears.

If you are able to remain composed,
know that this is less
a matter of choice
than one of habit.

When required to prove
whether or not
it is wrong for someone to
dismantle your dignity,

Ask: What have you been drinking?
The lies of idols,
draped in oppression?
Oh! how rationalization flows
ecstatically from contorted
tongues and maimed lips.

When advised to disregard
verbal traumas,
colorless bruises,
bloodless scratches,

Ask: Who has the right to take aim at me?
A hunted peacock, or perhaps
a blindfolded trapper?
Ay! how antiquated answers
issue from the moldy minds of
visionless victims.

We do not gargle elixirs,
numb our grief,
pattern our minds
black and blue.

We do not sit afraid beside our bodies.

You and I are heirs to a universally human inheritance.
It is our habit to
seek beauty in nature,
share joy in a moment,
sow dreams in abundance.

Do not for a moment think that this world
is a carefully tended garden and you are
a weed.

May you sew grace within
the folds of your robes
and spread them
across the universe.

When you keep company
may it be in mutual humility
and noble care.

Dare to wear magnolia
flowers in your hair.

May you maintain
the habit of knowing
who you are
at all times. 
Theory of Relativity

I was waiting in line with you
and you
and you
and everyone else who wanted
something from God
that day.

Some people wanted groceries
and could afford them
tickling giggle-faced baby boy
leaning on the cart
checking optimistic texts
unloading bursting red cherries
onto the conveyor belt.

Or, at a place downtown
6:30am
leaning
crouching
hungry
against the wall with the door
that will open soon.

Some people wanted to fly
from countless airports
criss-crossing America
grasping wiggly kids
neck pillows
an assortment of 4oz bottles
along with various lives
that mattered.

Or, at various checkpoints and embassies
perspiring
sighing
clutching papers
pulling everything they own
into an alternate life.

I shifted from one foot to the other
unwrapped another gum
ruminated luxuriously.

And it occurred to me,
if God peered into our eyes
and Peter smirked
and asked each of us what we were doing
just before we reached his pearly gates,
that our understandings of the word “waiting”
are not the same.

Abena Ntoso is a full-time high school English teacher and mother of two, originally from New York City, and currently based in Houston, Texas. She returned to writing after a 20-year hiatus, during which she worked as an educational technologist at Columbia University and later served as a dentist in the U.S. Army.

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