University of Minnesota
minnesota writing project
center for writing

Minnesota Writing Project.Center for Writing's home page.

Katie Kunz


katie kunz readingWhat I Remember

You never wore white. Always
Always a wispy, silken scarf
Wrapped around your dark-brown, wrinkly face;
It framed your smiling, uncomprehending eyes.
On walks to the library’s New American Center
Windy, though our journey was
You held on to it,
(A light remnant of your old life).

High above the Minneapolis sidewalks
Scraping the sky
I tried to teach.
I tried to teach
Nestled in a dilapidated school,
In a reaching branch of Cedar

But the current changed,
When you all begged me for more
That one, final time.
“Please,” your collective class asked, “don’t not teach us.”
Then you alone, nameless young woman,
Brilliant in your beautiful, black Hijab
In your insistence on bettering your life,
You stood up.
You were the voice.

And although you stood unveiling yourself to me—to us all—
Because of selfish ignorance
I didn’t believe.
I left.

I am so sorry—
I really, simply didn’t know.

So it was you,
Laughing, Latino men,
In evenings after tremendously difficult days,
And you,
Southern John,
Who never learned literacy,
It was all of you.
You taught me.
You too, Mulu.

High above the Minneapolis streets,
And in a Cedar Riverside school
Nestled now,
In my mind
Your voices echo. And
I remember…

You taught me.