Poetic Perspectives: “Narratives of Trauma”

In this week’s issue of “Poetic Perspectives,” Mikayah Parsons ’24 presents “Narratives of Trauma,” which critiques the expectation for Black students to share their traumas in order to gain admission into elite institutions.

In this week’s issue of “Poetic Perspectives,” Mikayah Parsons ’24 presents “Narratives of Trauma,” which critiques the expectation for Black students to share their traumas in order to gain admission into elite institutions. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

What will it take for you to listen?

You elect committee members to make a decision,

Based on merit, about my admission.

What is merit?

A petite size flaunted by those who can wear it?

A family heirloom that one inherits?

The definition’s decided by those who share in it.

I do not have access to the “merit” you require,

No matter how big my brain or how much knowledge it desires.

Merit is more about the brand of wood than the brightness of the fire.

I will never be able to join your community

That gatekeeps insiders like they’re new royalty

So much that my failed attempts at entry look like disloyalty.

As I’m trying to find my way up, not in,

I raise the suspicion of family and friends,

Who don’t see a way up that includes them.


My goals and aspirations started out about them,

About creating a more just world for us to live in,

But when did it go from “us” to “me” and “them?”

Is there ever a world in which

My participation in social justice movements

Doesn’t involve appealing to crooked, powerful politicians?

I wrote an essay to get into college once.

Without “merit,” I had to make myself look like a dunce,

Capitalizing on my life’s most traumatic stunts.

At one point, I stopped feeling like me.

I was trying too hard to be somebody,

To give “the people” something they would finally see.

To be admitted into college, should I have to bear my soul?

Or sell it to the devil to reach my goal?

Do I have to talk about life’s debilitating toll?

Why can’t I write a poem about Black love?

Or my belief in a higher power reigning up above?

Why can’t I write about the good stuff?

Privilege is bright and flashy.

If I don’t have privilege, that leaves me

As a mascot on the margins. Will you see me?

My life must be so pathetic and sad,

That you could step in and save me with all your cash,

But I must be careful to beg and not to bash.

People call me a sell out

Because to get here, I had to want to get out,

Planting in our community little seeds of doubt.

If you’re reading this, I just want you to know.

I never had any plans to let my roots go.

I’ll share our stories of resistance, even if I start slow.

My life may have been filled with horrible things,

But it was at the hands of a society that causes suffering,

By people raised with hatred that they keep performing.

If this was my admissions essay, you wouldn’t let me in,

Because I would sound too human for you to save me from sin.

I’m condemning you for things you’ll do again and again.

I did not ask for a savior.

I asked you to stop separating the elite from the labor.

I didn’t ask you to do me any favors.

My admission was not contingent on speaking ill of my community.

It was a plea for you to let us be.

It was less of a photo and more of a mirror for you to see.

I wasn’t pointing out the horror of our nature,

I was pointing out the danger

Of a lineup of white saviors.

To all the people from back home

Who thought that what I’m doing is wrong,

I am not making us look weak; I am proving we are strong.