Guillermo Rebollo Gil (San Juan, 1979) is a poet, sociologist and attorney. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Fence, Feed, Mandorla, Spry, Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, Trampset, FreezeRay and Anti-Heroin Chic. His book-length essay Writing Puerto Rico: Our Decolonial Moment (2018), a careful consideration of the potentialities of radical thought and action in contemporary Puerto Rico, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in their New Caribbean Studies Series. He belongs to/with Lucas Imar and Ariadna Michelle. Happily so.
GUILLERMO REBOLLO GIL
EVERY WHITE HAND IN THE ROOM
On reading Etheridge Knight’s Hard Rock Returns to Prison
from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane in Puerto Rico
I read Hard Rock in Father Gordon’s 10th grade English class.
An American Jesuit in the colony, all he had to do
was praise your English to make you feel more special
than all boys in the school. Most of us were white too,
but in the colony, color is trickier or stickier. Plus,
back then, everybody was mostly worried about
who stuck a look on whom in the restroom.
I don’t remember how we broached “the role of race” in the poem.
We also read Shakespeare that year and I remember nothing.
But I can hear Father asking for a volunteer to read Knight’s poem out loud.
It was the only time every white hand in the room went up.
Always, when I walked into the restroom, I was so worried about being
singled out for sticking a look on somebody, I ended up
stuck on whoever was there. Teachers, especially.
I remember hating Shakespeare and loving Hard Rock.
I remember my English got so good that year,
everybody treated me special.
I remember thinking Etheridge was a girl’s name—
the only one we read all year.