Phillip B. Williams

  • MASKOT #3: FOR THE WHITE STUDENTS NEXT DOOR WHO SAY "NIGGA" WHEN SINGING ALONG TO RAP SONGS LOUD ENOUGH FOR ME TO HEAR

 

  • I caught you stealing
  • glances of yourselves in the shrieking
  • mirrors of your mouths, and still
  •  
  • you have not found yourselves
  • in this self-made history bright
  • as a premonition. You’ve been
  •  
  • looking for your mothers
  • with your voices and found your names
  • in the pulse of Lil Wayne. I knew
  •  
  • already what to call you was what
  • you thought to call me out of urgency.
  • Please return the “e” and “r.” You must
  •  
  • return to what birthed you. The nothing
  • rhythmlessly stomps
  • boot-wise over the head
  •  
  • of my darky sleeplessness. Last night
  • a young Black student screamed,
  • “I’m Black! I’ll fuck a mother-
  •  
  • fucker up,” trying to convince.
  • Nowadays it’s difficult niggering
  • to one’s self. Just yesterday, I misplaced
  •  
  • my bottle of melatonin but said
  • to a friend on the phone, “I lost my melanin.”
  • Sleepless and white, I fissured
  •  
  • my imagination to find in it
  • some semblance of you concussing
  • a book of speeches by MLK and chanting
  •  
  • “peace” toward no specific direction. Responding
  • to my loss of melanin, my friend
  • screamed “My nigga!” but I swore
  •  
  • he’d thrown his voice. Outside,
  • you cuss loudly, are angry about the beer.
  • Everyone needs to hear this. I raise
  •  
  • my blinds. I stare through the window
  • but can see myself as palimpsest over you all
  • as you stare back, approximate, catching on.

PHILLIP B. WILLIAMS is the author of Thief in the Interior, winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and finalist for the NAACP Image Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Thom Gunn Poetry Award from the Publishing Triangle. He is a winner of a 2017 Whiting Award. He currently teaches Literature and Creative Writing at Bennington College. 


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