Ah, yes―to weep in a romantic tint from the laceration of a limb,
or from any other fallible edition of anatomy, is to be tellingly,

obviously hurt―but to gnash one’s teeth together like a triggered dog
may also suggest blood flowing toward an ocean whose surface reflects

                                               only the nightmare, reoccurring.

The skin on the hand of the field slave is tougher than that
on the hand of the antebellum mistress, but this grossly undersells

                         the challenge, the labor required to make it through this.

Surely a sturdy pair of shoes would better fit the errand
of disappearing by foot than going completely bare, yes?

What I mean                            is that I’ve run far from home
                                               but not far enough to not be there.

What I mean                            is that the birds are not homing for warmth this season
                                               and I don’t know in what direction to point my toes.

What I mean                            is that I’ve fixed my eyes on the keyhole’s light,
                                               folded knee in every night and whispered
                                               into an enormous ear, awaiting

wings to blossom from me like something out of a book.


Cortney Lamar Charleston is the author of Telepathologies, selected by D.A. Powell for the 2016 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. 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.