Please Do Not Feed The Children

When I was in Mexico
I saw a mural painted on a thick brick wall that said
Please do not feed the children
What blasphemy
My anger singed my ear drums
"They are starving"
I thought
"We must nurture their bellies and feed their crying souls"
Our tour guide was a scrawny man
With a straw hat that drooped upon his forehead
"They will not go to school" he said
"They will circle the square and set tourist traps
And beg for sticks of gum or a Coca Cola"

I was 14
And did not know about things like consequences
I had never seen the ripple of fortitude
Circle inward again
I dropped my innocence where I was standing
Numbed by cause and effect
I understood the logic in all its inhumanity
And was dazed

I became a teacher
Sprawling my integrity like a kite within the minds of indiscretion
Folding student's pain like dirty laundry
I have begged for their forgiveness
I have launched morality at them like cannon balls
They dodge them
I have crafted their resistance into snow balls
They freeze
I have untied their demeanor with my teeth
I have drawn rings of fire around their test scores
I have scorched their earth
I have held their conscience bleeding as it died inside my arms

The world is not a mesmerizing place
It is a rocky field filled with guns and drugs and bombs and parentless boundaries
Mindless games envelop their bodies while their minds wander aimlessly around
They are branded
By their teachers, by their parents
By themselves
They're infected by temptation that's disguised as information
That is useless, faint, and damaging at best
I hear their music
I beat on their chests like they're dying
I sculpt their vulgar language with my own bare hands
I watch them wrestle with they're demons...
And lose
Every time
I watch them vomit their pride and leave it mangled in the doorway
I see their trauma
Dripping from the corners of their eyes
They have no tears left
I taste the abuse that they give
And they get
I watch their facts twist into a puzzle as they're bombarded by situations they cannot possibly understand

They are 14
And do not know about things like consequences
Or how the ripples of fortitude circle around again
And crush you
They only know that school is where you bargain
That pop tarts are free, reading is torture, 
And candy is the only thing worth learning for
They set tourist traps like it's an art-form
Circling squares and cutting holes in kindness
Their brevity of knowledge is ungodly
Their warped sense of right and wrong
Their insight jagged
They would sell their education for a stick of gum or a Coca Cola
And so we say to you, to hip hop, violence, t.v., video games, government, hypocrisy, racism, school boards, anyone and everyone who thinks that they are helping, 
We beg you
Do not feed the children
They are hungry
And cannot be fed by things painted
On a thick brick wall.


Richmond, VA

Christy Garrison Guise is an artist, writer, and teacher in Richmond, Virginia.