Best of the Net 2019  

The Poets Are All Pretty Pleased with Themselves Tonight

Imagine my surprise to find I'm the only one of me here:
then imagine the exact opposite of that, my lips curled
and slid slightly left of center in a Gary Coleman manner,
punctuating my mood like a comma. The slight pause between
the "how are you?" and the polite lie in reply is four or five
hundred years, give or take, and taking to the bar isn't suggested
in such a situation because a nigga who is drinking is more likely
to be a nigga who is telling the truth, even and especially if they slip
up and casually call some person nigga who dare not say it back.
Besides, the other attendees will gladly drink the house dry tonight,
flowing red wine like blood in the streets, tipping the conventionally
attractive bartender who admires whatever it is poets do with words,
which we don't understand nearly as much as we let on. Inevitably,
the question about creative practice arises to which the only genuine
answer is that I allow the hands of God upon me, but I refrain from this
and propose something more tangible that can be stolen so some people
can make good art, powerful art that is deemed so because the eyes are
convinced to finally see the artist.
                                                                   Those poems were so beautiful, man
but it seems the audience is never quite ready to appreciate them, revising
their relationship to the texts infinitely into inaction in their everyday lives,
evidenced by the fact that I'm the only one of me here, which, again, I can't
forget for as long as one black person wasn't crowned the ruler of us all.
Damn right I'm irritable; it's been a bad day, week, month, year, history.
I really struggle to know if poetry has saved any lives other than those
who already desperately wanted to live, so maybe we could stand to
speak with less assuredness about our power while power kills people
outside these walls we'll never hear names for.
                                                                                      Oh yes, I absolutely
detest the president, too, but I hated him before it was courageous, before
he was white again, before he was black, before he was white the first
43 times, before this pigheaded nation was even a nation at all. Think,
think, think. It's no surprise that my face looks familiar to you: we have
met before, and I'm afraid we'll keep meeting forever and ever, always
re-running this episode of escapism one of us fails to escape from though
they try as surely as they are, everybody of their body in the room, visible.

- Cortney Lamar Charleston (from Split Lip Magazine)