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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