Everyone Is There When We Look
Richard Stuart Perkins
Because America – this is me.
This is my distillation: particulates fragile and earthen,
Bounding, an amalgamation of fragments.
Because America, I am young, and want to know a thousand things, and never kneel or pray when advised,
Because between me and God swings a whip and a hammer,
A life defining slap upon my ass,
The uncivil slap upon my face.
Africa shadows me,
Uneasy in her shade,
Beyond her outline a harsh light.
I am always firstly the color of my skin,
Secondly my sex,
Thirdly, a conversation had amongst you without me present.
Because America, the gifts of my mind are of less concern to you, than my propensity to survive all attempts by you to remove me from mattering.
Because America, the promise of beginnings end with insistence.
And of obedience, no idea is worthy of it.
Because at the End, the measure of Life is the accumulation of the distances the mind has traveled.
Because America’s collective mind hasn’t traveled that far, I bend
depending on how high,
Squeezing my multitudes into a passing thinness,
My Blackness accenting the unrelenting monotony of white expanses.
In defiance I stand, knowing I am meant to fall before you.
Because my pain profits you America, you line me up and pick identities for me, and when I die, you tell my story from the point of the view of you.
Because America proclaims my death to be both Biblically foretold and evidentiary of my predaciousness –
Fertilizer for culture, my value.
My body, your sacrifice.
Because America, fearing
worships protestant elegies to Order.
And you believe your body to be a rental,
And honor the hierarchies of Christendom,
And while collecting revenues from the repeated holy mistakes of history: enslavement and plunder, pillage, and conquer!
Genuflect to Golgotha! And idolize the Palatine.
The un-fucked Holy men dispense merits to those who punish their flesh in the name of Western civilization’s obsession with unmaking man’s connection to the natural world;
While also believing those without money to be people of the dirt and of the mud,
of reeds and thatch,
of animal skins and insect dyes,
of the forest and farm,
Of chattel and chaff,
closer to nature,
envied for their purity,
pitted for their poverty.
In that story
My blackness is used as an abbreviation for search for life’s meaning.
Those Negro streets brimming ripe with Caucasians living the authentic American life of acquisition.
Because America, composted history makes fertile ground for repetitions of all that has been planted before.
Because America, not even the dead are without futures.
Because America, I do not live to die for you.
All endings and all beginnings begin and end perceptions and definitions,
Because America, the order of our need circumscribes our life even as they limit our understanding of what is possible:
of what is past,
of what can no longer be,
of what could have been.
Because in this moment America, there is no yesterday more important than the one that just came into existence.
I am, here now, alive.
My sight is clear.
Here and now.
What is behind you is evidence.
What is before you is possibility.
Folly believes youth is the same as vitality.
Time instructs that age itself is the master of all things.
And only in time are the knitted strands of identity and purpose, and place and distinction, twisted into a self.
Only then, do we have a face to see.
Here now are my legs and oh, how my arms hang long and low,
Here are my hands, and this is the touch that is kind,
And here now, the touch of desire, of fear, of possession, of deliverance, of surrender, of life –
awake and suffer,
sleep and be unmoved.
Because America, it is the friction that brings presence, and pleasure seems to follow the abrasions.
Life is born in friction,
And lived through wars.
And our battles birth our consciousness.
And of our losses, we sing odes of the heart that hurts,
Of the bodies that are no longer,
And of the eyes that have tired of seeing only that which is outlined by the defeated charcoal,
by the heat of war –