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Balconies

December 1st, 2020

Poem by Carter Cumbo

Artwork by Maddy Meredith

Everyone knows Black Lives Matter is an excuse to call your grandfather a cunt behind his back for voting Trump,

 

to waft righteous stink eyes at anyone in a MAGA hat, 

hoping they catch a whiff like under perfumed armpits. 

 

Mostly, I pray for the field day 

when someone says the word “RACE” and I can pop outta my mouth with a submachine gun tongue and start spraying misquoted Baldwin at their seated ass.

A lingual gunslinger but really I’m here looking for an excuse to swing saloon doors and pass hot carbon through your face for even glancing at a right-wing news anchor,

 

And I’m especially twisted in my solar plexus when the word leftist is used in the same sentence as fake news, and any message not in bed with the one in my head gets slept on like a CNN  

story where something positive happened. 

 

And honestly,

 

if there is any message I’ve absorbed it’s this: standing amongst picket signs enshrined in white skin and blue eyes, irately pumping double middle fingers at a group of flat affect officers, 

is the best way to justify unrelated rage without admitting it. 

 

If there’s any message, its white guilt is louder than black grief. 

 

A message: who needs to die so I can be right? Whose face must be pressed into a relief sculpture of asphalt chiseled by the pressure of a white knee so I can say I told you so?

 

Who’s cousin gets shot? Torn by lead, into a million newspaper clippings showering from above like wartime propaganda, 

Repurposed as ammo for my hair-triggered diatribe, parked behind my rotten molars.

 

Loaded like cyanide capsules, ready for social suicide surrounded by friends more concerned with local Only Fans profiles.

 

           I can’t say a word in this Portland, Maine diner without bursting the capsule and foaming out liquid-insides, dowsing all the French Fries and iPhones.

I’ve taken enough diggers 

off high horses to know 

it doesn’t make me a jockey 

to never learn my lesson. 


 

Social Justice has been my identity: where I have subscribed to the cheapest membership 

 

of all-talk and no-action. Burying beneath it the lamentation of my whiteness, the frustration of being another face of guilty white conscience. 

 

           My ego a two sided blade to cut/simultaneously/ the throats of

           those whose voices have spoken opposed to mine / and

           the suspensions of any bridges I meant to burn between us.  

 

To what point has all the choir preaching of critical race theory courses insulated me inside a lonely castle of big heads and wide moats,

 

where Black America lives only in a textbook. 

 

I heard that a prose poem is a likely spot for paradox,

like passive activism,

like returning to murder myself from 25 minutes ago for having the idea that we should be honest on the page 

like offing every minute of myself from twenty five till a second ago for being complicit in that honesty,

Like being fearful and in love.

 

I think this poem is a more suitable text block for hypocrisy,

like feeling embarrassed at a protest you shamed people to attend, 

like demonizing the indifference of your friends and then cowering in the presence of your own complacency.

 

           A government blasting a peaceful leader on the Lorraine balcony, 

                  then naming a holiday after him. 

 

           Like being another Anglo face in the crowd pointing a finger at the image of himself 

           reflecting off the transparency of 

 

           a darkened television set.