It’s Important I Remember That in Order for White People to Study My Life They Must First Study My Body—
once my muscles harden in a manner I’d have hoped for
as a teen thinking it would dissuade death from trying me,
they will slip their fingers into every opening they can find
still wet with young wine and take pleasure in knowing this
is not a body that belonged to a real man. And though not
what they’d call woman either, written in cursive or calculus,
it is undoubtedly some woman’s body of work—mother, sister,
lover—tossed hastily in the trash bag. Cause of death: the usual.
Time of death: on time, like an act of God. Local press is present
just outside the operating room doors with only the most pertinent
questions for those people with the untold shame of loving who
the body used to be.
_________________How poor were his grades in grammar school?
Did he smoke weed or just sell it? On a scale of fast to insanely fast,
at what speed did he veer toward violence?
_____________________________________The story writes itself
into the fiction of history unless the homies still here don’t allow it by
lending evidence to an eloquence of living on my part, pointing them
to my private papers, to the drafts that keep my promise evident to
the larger world because I ultimately couldn’t without a physical form.
In the end, once they dig through my records and come up with
nothing but a few paid-off moving violations, they’ll discover that
I didn’t lack control in my life as they assumed; I lacked control over
my life. I could’ve had a J.D. and still lacked jurisdiction; somebody
close to me told me I had the juice and then I ended up getting juiced.
A tragedy. A regrettable mistake. A wake-up call.
__________________________________________In eternal sleep
I have the option of counting the bullets like sheep over and over or
counting the sheepish in all the sleepy towns so obviously I’ll do both
and make my peace with the very state of emergency somehow being
less than urgent. Funny. My time here was too short but now I have all
the time in the world to make my mark.
_______________________________________Mama, I’m going
_______________________________________to be a scar.
It’s Important I Remember That a Current Event Is a Current—
carries a charge, attracts the opposition’s glee _____or anger
to the anonymous comment section. ___Of course, the current
state of affairs flows through me entirely, ___ ____twists static
into my hair: _______to say 60% of the body’s weight is water
is to say I’m especially sensitive ____to the latest scandalous
headline, not shocked in the least but ___ ____an electric field
of hard feelings, ____ repelling people regardless of intention.
My connection to the world is __ ____loosening by the second.
The things I should be wired tightly to ___ ___my grip has
been softening on since they killed him ______ the first time.
I could burn a house down in seconds ____ with the wrong
spark, with ease. _ ___Someone like me happens every day.
My country is a house divided against itself ____so perhaps
that is the one to go up in smoke ______when a housewife
tries to toast ____a slice of whole grain bread in the suburbs.
What a shame that would be, _____what a quiet misfortune:
all anybody would’ve needed to do ______was check on me
once in a white moon, ________give me a good hope to hold
on to again. The fix seems so easy and yet ___ __the concern
so far from mind. _______The American dream has long been
to own a home that you must ________maintain, therefore you
own this catastrophe _________waiting to happen in the wall,
the thing you never knew you were ________wishing for: me,
aflame, bringing it all down ________to where I feel most days.
CORTNEY LAMAR CHARLESTON is the author of Telepathologies, selected by D.A. Powell for the 2016 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize, and Doppelgangbanger, forthcoming in Fall 2020 from Haymarket Books. He was awarded a 2017 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and he has also received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation Literary Festival and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Winner of a Pushcart Prize, his poems have appeared in Poetry, The American Poetry Review, New England Review, Granta, The Nation and elsewhere. He serves as a poetry editor at The Rumpus and on the editorial board at Alice James Books.