“To Hannah Lyons” by Azia Armstead

Azia Armstead


Instead of raising my hand and admitting to my incorrectness,
I changed the “D” on my quiz by drawing another D just
above the preexisting one, avoiding our teacher’s sharp eye,
and because the spines of those identical Ds aligned
perfectly they made a makeshift uppercase B, the right answer,
each kid seated at our roundtable minded their own business
and naturally had the decency of discretion except you,
you prepubescent Karen, you unhinged your cavernous
mouth, full of bloodthirsty baby teeth, unknowing of,
or perhaps feeling exempted from, what happens to snitches—
typical—your father, who I presume only put you in Southampton
Elementary for its diversity, was a doctor and probably paid for your
tutors and would eventually fund your SAT prep, Ivy League tuition
and luxury condominiums in lush hills, so you would have been covered
regardless of whether, hypothetically speaking, my small fist slipped
and hit your upper lip, however I was much more passive then
and wouldn’t have retaliated against you and your armor of goodness
and while this event was many years ago and you may have children
of your own now I do not offer you friendship nor forgiveness
for I am convinced that you were determined to destroy us all
because you were aware of the rumor, swirling around the Lego
block cubbies and cakey mulch playground, that you were not,
as you may have believed, the smartest student in our second grade
class but Alieka, who wore mahogany glasses that matched her skin tone
and whose mother always braided her hair in neat straight back cornrows,
also acquired an assemblage of scholar roll certificates, more than you in fact,
and we all knew it to be true as you simmered to a boil in your seat
while her name was called at the awards ceremony to collect her prize.

from Rattle #79, Spring 2023


Azia Armstead: “As a child I understood privilege very early on. I didn’t have the language to articulate it then but I knew there was a difference between myself and kids like Hannah. I cheated on my test because I so desperately wanted to be acknowledged and celebrated, but mostly I wanted to be ‘smart.’”

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