Breaking the Chain

by Kai S., 16

my father was my hero
and when his figure was gone
i put frames of him on the walls of my heart

i watched him walk away
and the dirt stained boot footprints
engraved their graveled lines on my carpet

but i left my mom’s handprint on my door
i didn’t watch the way she carried herself
even when my door was closed on her

i didn’t watch the way
light emitted off her dark skin
even when the sun hid away
even when the moon was too dull
to shed its light on the smallest ponds

i didn’t watch the way
she strutted with pride
even when the world shut its doors against us

at the steps of a world
who didn’t care if my hands were still
locked away in shackles
or my knees still buried in muddy dirt
she talked with power in her voice

at the streets of a world
where teargas became our oxygen
and police became devils in uniform
with tears puddled under her eyes
she moved with grace

in my house
where my father could ignore it
but my mother and i couldn’t
i watched her stand with fierce in her eyes
and intensity in her blood
and now i see her in the mirror

i feel the weight of the world on my back
hunched over with white hands pressing into my shoulders
i felt my mother in me
and i felt her lift the weight off me
pushing my feet into her feet
i can finally walk with her

Red Bank, New Jersey

Notes from our interns on selecting this piece: Very powerful and emotive poem! Beautifully captures the resilience and strength of a mother who remained steadfast in the face of adversity. Portrays the indomitable spirit of a woman who refuses to be broken by the harsh realities of the world.