Of Colored, Dignified Tongues Conference
& Political Content Writing Workshop:

Collected Poems

Grace Burns

Collage: Grace Burns


In seventh grade you pretty much do what other people tell you to do.
Especially if those people hate your guts.
Hence the reason of shoving a paper clip into the electric socket,
just to see “what it does.”
You know what it does.
But in middle school, especially in seventh grade, it’s cool to be dumb.
Especially if you’re a girl.
Especially if you’re a “different” girl.
You shove the paper clip into the electric socket.
Nothing happens yet, and everyone is disappointed.
You, being one of the smartest ones in class,
knows that all the plugs are controlled by the red “off/on’ button.
So you push the button.
There is a large cracking sound.
There is a blinding flash.
There is a dark scorch mark on the desk.
There is teacher asking what happened.
And there is you, turning red.


there is a weight
pushing down
causing bent backs
stooped shoulders
our faces to the ground

names that carry 
across the centuries
causing the stories
in our skin to be
washed out, sanded down
to be created in another’s 

mountains of tongues
fill our rooms
voices taken away
our stories cut out
of our heads

my fingers graze 
the tongue’s surface
trying the read
those stories
in braille


there is dust              thick layers that settle in the lungs so we could never run freely through the fields that held dry hay  prickly bushes carcasses of cats   neighborhoods bisected by empty dirt lots that held horses or stray dogs   schools on the edge of orange groves           a statue of a man holding dirt
in his hands    waiting or a miracle


she moves
through life
her thoughts
quick & hard
questioning the
around her

she breathes

not because
she has to
but because
she can
knowing that
the air is as
as her
it is deliberate
a breathe
humble as
she exhales


Grace Burns participated in the Political Content & Writing Workshop in Fall 2012 and the Of Colored, Dignified Tongues: Writing Conference in Spring 2013. She is a 1.5 Pinay queer poet-educator with an MFA degree from Mills College. As a Bay Area transplant by way of the Central Valley, she still struggles to find her identity and a community that has the same passion for stories and education. She has been teaching with Pin@y Educational Partnerships for the last seven years, working with students from elementary to college.