San Pedro students wide-eye college
with a foreign desperation. They know
this place is necessary but not why.
The geography of their desperation
feels different from traveling into strange,
this one is shaped like an absence,
like the loss of a family pillar,
that person that holds you tight
effortlessly, suddenly gone.
San Pedro parents tell their kids
go to school, even though I didn’t,
even though my parents didn’t.
It’s the only way, now. The students
hear it from uncles and aunts, long
lines of longshoremen generations.
They have mapped out the end
and know it’s shaped like a microchip,
tiny squares with metal tentacles
girded by robot arms and winches,
and no amount of John Henries
can compete. Go to school,
they say, repetitively and consistently
but they mean: “You can’t be
what we were, and I’m sorry.
And they come to class wide-eyed
wanting me to teach them how to
distance themselves from things they hold
dear, to teach them how to distance
themselves from things that held
them and their loves, tight.