Cruelty

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Brooks’ poem A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi. Meanwhile, A Mississippi Mother Burns Bacon really moved me. The mother dreams her whole life of her white knight, her prince charming. At first, she thinks she has him, but then he kills a fourteen year old black boy to protect her. She then realizes that her prince charming is an illusion. He is not a brave protector, but a murder. Worse still, he got away with it, which left her and her children living with a hateful, judgmental, bigoted, authoritative murder. Now, rather than protected, she felt trapped not knowing, if without the right lip stick and her hair in place, he might turn his cruelty on her and her children. He is really a “dark villain” who she needs to appeal to constantly. She is afraid, as that murdered boy must have been, of what he might do.

I can really relate to this woman. Not that my situation was dramatic, or brutal, but I know how it feels to have someone you thought you were safe with, who you thought was in your corner turn out to be someone else. Just like the mother who thought her prince was going to be perfect, I had a very close friend of over three years who I thought I could trust and count on. See, I had a very hard time in the second year of junior high school. Before that, I had hung out with my very good friend at lunch and during free time. But, the next year she moved up to high school and I had no one. It was junior high, so of course there are cliques. But, I did not belong to any of them. I had always had my older friend, she was the only one that got me, and now she was gone. I ate lunch alone everyday behind the backstage door to the theater because I was ashamed and embarrassed to be alone. Sometimes I did not each lunch at all, anything to keep me away from the eating area. But, isolating myself made it worse because teachers started checking on me. For the first time, I started hating my school. I needed to find a friend. I had always gotten along with Mira, and I started talking to her after class one day. Before I knew it, I had a new friend, my prince. She even had an imposing stature like the mother’s prince in the poem. At 14 Mira had to be 5’ 10’. She let me join in her clique. I felt safe and included. Not only did I not have to eat lunch alone anymore, but we became very close. I stayed at her house and she at mine. We went to each other’s birthday parties, and hung out on the weekends. But, all of a sudden just like the mother‘s prince, Mira turned into a monster. I was not sure what she would do next, and there was really no escaping her.

I came back from a school trip sophomore year and a new girl (Mia) was sitting at our lunch table, and, she was in my seat. At first, I thought it was odd, and was deathly afraid that I lost my spot and would be alone again. How did she get into a clique so fast? Then I thought “whatever,” and I got used to it. But, about a week in to the new girl situation, I started to see a change in Mira. She became very aggressive towards me and called me a liar. She said I was lying about having epilepsy, “there are no such things as brainwaves,” even though she saw me take my medication every time I stayed at her house. She was like a broken record; all I ever heard now when I talked with her or around her was “liar,” “lie,” and “that’s a lie”. It was like she was trying to ruin my reputation. It was working because in her own weird way Mira was very popular in our clique. Finally, sophomore year ended, and I was hoping my junior year would be different. When junior year started, it was different. Mira was the same weird friend I had known and loved. But, it did not last long. Things quickly became so bad that we no longer spoke to one another. She had gotten so controlling and crazy that no one liked her anymore, not even Mia, who I think got Mira on this crazy train in the first place (though I cannot really tell you why – I just know everything changed when Mia showed-up and started spending a lot of time with Mira). Everyone was afraid of what she might do next. She even posted on a group chat that I had accused a teacher of having an affair with a student. She could have gotten me expelled and the teacher fired.

Like the mother in the poem, I was seeing someone I thought was my friend and protector in a new light. I was scared of how far she would go. What damage might she do next.  But, unlike the mother in the poem, I got an out. Just when things had gotten as bad as they could, I could not take it anymore, and I all exploded in my mind like the mother, Mira moved away. I was not trapped like the mother, dependent on someone I feared and hated. But it was odd, I still wanted her to be my friend. I did not understand what went wrong. I wanted things to be the way they were. I wanted my safe illusion back. But, I knew in my mind that if she came back that would not be the case.

The poem reminds me of Chicago because it would have been one of Northern places that judged the Georgia monster. With its diverse population, Chicago was a prince that black people could flee to from the south and find opportunity and fairer treatment. But now it seems unclear how safe any part of America is if you are black. Unarmed black people are being killed all over the country, including in Chicago. So, like the husband in the poem, and like Mira, it is not clear if Chicago really is a protector. It seems that at least some part of Chicago’s fair, diverse façade has be questioned. (Anna Paliga/ CoS Student)

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