And the birds waiting to shit on people’s heads at Broadway Junction. And the army recruiters behind the table telling black teens they can be on the other side of the gun. And the only time the airport staff is friendly is when I wear my Ivy League sweatshirt. Me being the token and liking it. And the strange man at the bus stop who wouldn’t let me leave until I gave him a hug. And my white neighbors who laugh like they don’t fear death. And the third time I’ve checked the stovetops but still can’t sleep. And the heavy-handed beauticians braiding my hair. And every person who’s ever asked if my hair is real. Every moment I can’t cornrow. And every rat that makes its way into my apartment. And the gentrifiers. And every white congressman that represents a predominately black district. And 9th Ward second lines with nothing but white transplants in it. And the roach I found in the banana bag. And the roommate who has sex too loud and too often in our apartment. And I can never travel without a stomachache. I think I’ll never have a home to come back to. And the people who wear glasses for the aesthetic. And the dreams grandmothers have that make you afraid to leave the house. And the corner of the counter my hip hits. And the ducking I do when I don’t know if I’ve heard fireworks or gunshots. And everyone who doesn’t consider Pluto a planet. Every sickness that made us lose a parent that year.
I'm Always so Serious
I was spoiled by lavish thoughts,
I admit it. History almost unchained itself
from my weaker clavicle.
so excited on the anniversary of assassination.
I wrote this because I want to live
in the house I cannot own because
I am not white. Forgive me. I’ve said this
before but I was in a different state,
a softer mania, and this time, a wife lunged
toward the mouths of overwatered
magnolias. They were already dead.
At my home, two chickens peck
the yard and refuse to leave us eggs.
I refuse to rest out of unmet want.
I mean, I harass the gnats in the bathroom.
I fix the sprite, wash your back,
watch the night, eat all the dead crab.
You watch me accumulate in particulars.
I stretch the curtains. This is daylight: the swelling
of a lizard’s red throat.
Inside the home I want for the wrong reason,
there is a lamp that won’t work. I know because
the owners keep their blinds open.
The husband joins his wife near the olive-
shaded lamp and quails
as his raving lover seizes the neck of
the fixture. I shudder in the passenger seat of
this city, far enough to not be heard but a light shines
bright and I am seen, sleuthing and serious. I know
close violences still form in the absence of want.
I keep walking as the husband shuts the blinds.
KARISMA PRICE is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection I'm Always so Serious (Sarabande Books, 2023). Her work has appeared in Poetry, Four Way Review, Wildness, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. She is from New Orleans and holds an MFA in poetry from New York University. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Poetry at Tulane University.