Night LettersMike Gubser
I know how to read and write by dark, just as much moon as I need. The white paper curls up in hot wind, its dry corners hiding my words. Nails on the top and bottom pin the message to the door. A bitter sun. You’ll use your palms to flatten the sheet on the wood. Dust will stop your throat. You’ll think that somehow I learned to write, complain that I deny the same good to others. True, I know the words “student”, “teacher”, “stop”, “leave”, “you” and “us.” Does a person need more words? I know how to burn, that a schoolhouse built of plank ignites quickly, completely, that bone and blood turn to ember, that even fingernails don’t grow in ash. The schoolhouse bakes to splinters in the sun while you teach the children and I wait for night. What can I add to your project but show that children burn too? Morning, mid-day, afternoon – a single heat. Even iron nails blacken and sink in cinder where I can dig them out to hang more letters if you make me. We can teach ourselves about justice, piety, freedom. But your hands are filled with the lives of our children, and their safety hangs at your door. When you read this letter, leave our land. It belongs to us and to the children. Though I do not want to kill, I will if I must. I learned to write so I do not have to. Now you must learn to read from us. As your bulletins say, literacy holds the key to life.
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