WE ALL HAVE TO COME HOME SOMEDAY / OF COURSE IT’S ABOUT RACE

BY DANTE DOUGLAS

WE ALL HAVE TO COME HOME SOMEDAY

I learned I was black the same way that I learned I was depressed
less like a discovery at all and more a legacy all falling down at once.
when I was younger I saw a building collapse and thought
maybe that’s what we have to look forward to,
a slow forgetting of what holds us together and the next day I went to school
and learned to fight, as so many boys do, and learned to swear,
as so many boys do, when a white kid called me nigger next to the pool table
my nigger fist called him bruise,
like it was trying to find more black in his erupted skin than I had, the way tears
find in anger a kindred spirit, the way the ground finds bricks
and calls them home after so many years away. when the bowling alley
burned down the bruises must’ve stayed, right where we left them,
in the rubble. this is how all things end, in the deep rich of the earth
and all her ever-open hands. i mouthed the word depression in front
of a mirror until my mouth shaped the meaning itself, until my eyes welled over
a fount of youth. salt stings the wound and cleanses the skin,
all blank and expanse like canvas. the mirror doesn’t care
and for that, it is the best confidant. the mirror is just a mirror
and the earth is just dirt and the bowling alley is just rubble and the bruise
is just a bruise. it’s not the skin at all. it’s your mother and your father
and the dirty brown of you in the sun and the bit lip outside the therapist’s
office or the black church, and each time the thought:
I don’t think I can be here.

OF COURSE IT’S ABOUT RACE

all cheap beer is the same unless it isn’t, and sometimes
what determines that is the ground upon which you are drinking it
or the way it hits your tongue: take, for example, the summer,
the always-forgetting season, the never-home-until-dark season,
the gap-in-the-floorboards season, the season I wish I didn’t hate
but I do: it is then that the cheap beer isn’t so cheap, or at least
masquerades as not, & I think about how so many things
look different in the heat, how my skin browns just enough
that I don’t feel like a liar when ‘black’ drips out from under my tongue
and stains whatever shirt I have deemed worthy of doubting myself in
& this is so familiar, isn’t it, to clothe oneself in a new dress
whenever reinvention is a necessary disguise, & in the summer
I have so few shirts anyway so everything is soaked in meaning
or possibly spilled beer, & to get back to the story July 4th of 2015
was a hot day and there was plenty of cheap beer and I realized
that if you are surrounded by good things, the bad things are not
so overwhelming, and what better things are there than friends
and a new chance the rapper mixtape, so we living good,
relatively speaking. all that music makes the air heavy, the plants bloom
in the midsummer, the cars stop in their paths and listen. all cheap beer
is determined by context, as we all are products of our time, and as
a sociologist I don’t believe in any inherent nature of humans,
but heat changes states of being, so for a minute, we all looked
as good as nostalgia would make us look. & what good small magic is that.

 

Dante Douglas is a writer and game developer from Eugene, Oregon. He likes aching legs after long bike rides and hates capitalism. His poetry has previously been seen in FreezeRay Poetry, Rejected Lit Poetry, Button Poetry, and Write About Now. You can find him on twitter @videodante. His website is here.

 

Art by art editor Michelle Johnsen

Michelle Johnsen is a nature and portrait photographer in Lancaster, PA, as well as an amateur herbalist and naturalist. Her work has been featured by It’s Modern Art, Susquehanna Style magazine, Permaculture Activist magazine, EcoWatch.com, EarthFirst! Journal, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, and used as album art for Grandma Shake!, Anna & Elizabeth, and Liz Fulmer Music. Michelle’s photos have also been stolen by AP, weather.com, The Daily Mail, and Lancaster Newspapers. You can contact her at mjphoto717 [at] gmail.com.