poetry quarterly

10th anniversary


Joseph Ross


for Kevin Nelson, 1985-2004

When I told my creative writing
class of high school seniors

to let a “a page come out”
of them, to write something

“true,” they looked at me
like I was slow.

“Write something true?”
Hythia said, in her Pontius Pilate

accent. “What is True?”
“Well,” I explained,

“Sit with that idea
for a minute and see

what comes.” It wasn’t
the first time my prompt

for in-class writing
stumbled and fell to the floor

between my black students
and me, their white

poetry teacher. But it was
a first, a few days later,

when our discussion led Kevin
to say “Maybe everything is true.”



Joseph Ross has published poems in Poet Lore, both volumes of the anthology Poetic Voices Without Borders, and Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC. He co-edited Cut Loose the Body: An Anthology of Poems on Torture and Fernando Botero's Abu Ghraib, and has read in the Miller Cabin Series and the Library of Congress Poetry at Noon Series. He teaches in the College Writing Program at American University.


Published in Volume 12, Number 1, Winter 2011.


To read more by this author:
Joseph Ross: Evolving City Issue
Joseph Ross: Floricanto Issue