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THREE POEMS

 

by Jordan Charlton

        

                                                                                        

     THAT'S NOT WHO I AM

 

Even when my actions are mine, 

they are not me, when I am white.

When I am white, I am always a man

and always right, as in correct. White

for so long meaning absolute, or solely observable.

In every room when I am my whitest

every person accepts me, looks me in the eyes,

tells me how well I speak, how my words

paint pictures like Picasso, like Monet, only

less Spanish, less French. Really, more like

Rockwell—oh how he painted so vividly 

and imaginatively with broad strokes of freedom,

of simple life! The polite and unpolitical. 

Like The Last Ear of Corn where a little boy,

his grandfather enjoy ears of corn at a table.

Simple virtues: eating at the table. When I am white,

I always make sure to say grace. Sometimes twice

thankful that, at my whitest, I am not me

even when my actions are.

 

 

     I'M THINKING OF A DISTANCT FUTURE 

 

Life is, in itself and forever, shipwreck.

-           José Ortega y Gasset

 

And how on the first day,

black lay bare, uninhibited

 

over the unassuming face

of the earth in its youth

 

& it was beautiful.

It might take lifetimes

 

to tumble in that dark

again, like how planets

 

in foreign solar systems

dance to unfamiliar suns.

 

I believe our story is familiar

how we’ve made home of stardust

 

and space waste, how we survive

shipwrecked on this shore of tragedy.

 

 

     I THINK I'M BECOMING A REGULAR TO THIS NEIGHBORHOOD

 

On most days, I find myself on these streets running,

although if I am being honest, I find myself walking

my way through this sweltering heat.

 

Ninety degrees is the song this week of summer sings

until one hundred will peak its head through the clouds.

Today, I am not fearful for my life. Today,

 

I return down this street as a cyclist. I ride

Kennedy Ave. on an old bike from a friend

moving to a place halfway across the country.

 

These streets are safe and quiet, which is also to say,

white and unassuming, which is also to say,

here, on Kennedy Ave. I stand out, am a visitor. Today,

 

I am not fearful for my life, although, halfway

through this neighborhood, my body wonders,

then worries. Across the country, my mother worries.

 

In the distance, as I see while I rest against my bike,

children throw pebbles into the sky,

trying to knock a wasp’s nest from the gutter

 

of their house—white painted stucco, a Gable roof.

Below the lip of the hill, a basement window visible

from this side of the street.

 

I watch, in some unfamiliar horror.

Their stones reach for the sky

then descend to the ground.

* * *

Jordan Charlton was born in Florida. His writing has been published in The Adroit Journal, Quarter After Eight, Ruminate, West Branch and elsewhere. He is a Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets nominee and former Associate Editor in Nonfiction for Prairie Schooner currently editing his debut poetry collection Slow Kill, which has been accepted for publication with Finishing Line Press in the Fall of 2024.

TUSKEGEE REVIEW

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