Content warning: anti-Blackness, slavery
our greatest ambition, to be met somewhere other than the middle
passage—just a shadow but sometimes it’s hard to walk around in your own worn shoes like an old truth, grotesquely retrospect of addressed flesh & grit teeth. across a sea that is big & was already old, what survives may not be pretty: what color could shadows be once this present is subsumed? answered in that familiar hush, saved for spaces where your life is the one game in town. so many bodies find predicaments, but it’s rare to worry over naming blame while they are still only named bodies, haunting us like a ghost that isn’t quite friendly yet carries along with you knowing you need the company for the habit of horror. a habitat teaches you to remain resilient or alive. most times that is enough to be and joy is safely ignored, but when they demand to hear mourning you can remain enough, be made sacred by silence & leave them to listen & listen & listen for the stillness of no sound at all, running head long for your brilliant, elated pause.
in the absence of a parrot
a nature curated in the obverse self we have always craved as conquerors airbrushed past all recognition of our predation, a shadow at the whole which word alone cannot erase from the geologic record expanding as we are into time measured in strata, the historical record keeps the familiar shapes of our noses, the color on our backs and our shoulders, the voices trapped as legacies of legacy invested in ornaments like truth, molded into anachronistic oddities waiting for their day to be sold at market literate in the value of remains grown small with time, even our oak shriveled, softened for the hands of children elastic as they wiggle the rods, rattle bladeless sabers, able to imagine they never sought blood, never drained color from any face recognizable as man; how inviting these artifacts as they approach dissolution. even waves turn static waiting for break, distance decays, even the sand slows itself from melting as glass resting between you and drowning, an imagined protection expanding as we are into time measured in strata, the historical record keeps a hilly cemetery nearby in the tall weightless grass, an old barn melting into ground across the bay, a good place to share with a cat or something else to outlive, accessories to remember instead of leaving behind. the world at my back, exposed to nothing but the humming drone of nothing, the rest of the world all in process. become this thing we tell ourselves we are expanding as we are into time measured in strata, the historical record keeps the grief which your cat lacks when it fails to miss you, or your own nostalgia, an evolutionary wedge which found a way to process loss as promise, holding on to every one of our mistakes, until mirrors fade back into sand and we drown under the weight of it all the historical record keeps for its sheer number of things expanding as we are, the time to answer question is past.
for all the broken things unfixed with nothing left but time to fix them
we’ve discovered whole vocabularies of disappointment; maybe I am as old as we all feel, detached as we all think. what if all this talk of new normal is nothing more than old rumor finally hitting the fan & we all see the very same thing in the inkblot splatters on separate walls & can’t chalk it up to happenstance, again. what if all this distance is is a really big mirror facing the wrong way. what if the universe was not such an unspeakable terror for its endlessness & my hands, pale palms unburned & open, tumbled each and every one of you I could ever imagine loving, breathing & petrified, into the inert vision at the ends of my own go-go-gadget arms, finally enough to fold each and every one within a single shared thought and not recognizing the universe in deference to its scale we always mistranslate as endless difference. will each and every or even just one of you please pity me with this simple kindness: tell me it’s okay that the universe is so big that it must be ignored.
Isaac Pickell is a passing poet & PhD student at Wayne State University in Detroit, where he lives & studies the borderlands of blackness & black literature. His work’s found in Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Fence, Protean Magazine, and Sixth Finch, and his debut chapbook everything saved will be last is available now from Black Lawrence Press.