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Friday, December 18, 2015


by Matty Layne

"There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less -- a slower-track school where they do well.” —Antonin Scalia, U.S. Supreme Court Justice

An audible gasp filled the court-
room—the last breath of the now
dead slave, & he’d been holding his
breath for centuries, before Jim

Crow & bus boycotts & affirmative
action in ’61, before Scalia said we
need to slow it down for him—more
white justice that knows what’s best

for a black man. This gasp will never
end. No breath could ever fill the void
in the dead slave’s lungs, no admission
can affirm the carnage when we lock a

race in leg irons for centuries & think
taking off the shackles can cover the
weight he’s bore on his ankles, on his
skin. The weight, heavy like the words

that cause the gasp, links in the chain
still holding him back from the chance.

Matty Layne is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing & Environment at Iowa State University. His poems and prose on social justice have appeared in This Week in Poetry & The Harbrace Guide to Writing.