A Poem From Caroline M. Mar’s (poetry ’13) New Collection SPECIAL EDUCATION

Look at Pictures, Illustrations, Charts, and Graphs 
Projected on the wall, a map, 
each school a dot. Colored
in codes of the standardized test: 
there’s basic, taxi-yellowed;
proficientadvanced, the colors
of wealth. But not my school
nor each nearby. In our neighbor-
hoods, fire burns, blood pools: 
below basicfar below basic. 
At year’s start, the principal talks
of who we serve, and who
we fail. As always, numbers: far
below basicbelow,
below the tip of the iceberg, 
metaphorical, blue,
in her PowerPoint. This is not, 
unlike half our staff, new. 
But then she tapes up photographs
on a blank, white board. Shows: 
This boy, jail. This, expelled. This boy
just gone, to where, don’t know. 
So by the end, it’s nearly half
our Black male students. They
gaze at us from shadowed portraits, 
flattened to grainy gray. 
The young white man presenting has
a passion I could squeeze
into a drinking glass. He says, 
For Black students, this is 

the worst place in the state to get
an education. Now
I need that drink, its sunshine wedge, 
to squeeze into the low
and fizzing whisper of a G
& T, to touch, to eye
nothing but glass between my hands, 
here, where color decides. 
Some smile, but most practice the shape 
of hardened mouths and eyes. 
These boys are gone. We let them down. 
It’s quick: I start to cry 
and by the end, I’m shaking, sobs
while paisley tissue packs
pass round to my sweating hands. How
deep, I wonder (don’t ask),
will this water get? Far below
the iceberg’s metaphor, 
far past the clink of ice, I see 
films of the ocean floor
I showed my kids, who tried to love
nothing, but loved the glow
of creatures alive at ocean’s depths. 
The water’s color, though
really none, can reflect blue, brown, 
or green. If you go deep, 
its hue looks black. In science, they 
learn black’s no color. Seep 
of color’s absence. These boys, lost, 
are failed and failing. What
shade is this disaster, then, what
color our failure’s cost?