The virus has created its own clock, and in coronatime, there is less demarcation between a day and a week, a weekday and a weekend, the morning and night, the present and the recent past.
—Arielle Pardes, Wired
If a week is a unit
of listlessness, I am
a centenarian Black man—
longest living Homo sapien
tenant on this molten rock
called America. My problems
are the problems of the previous
century. Depression & bread-
centric. Bring me the cheddar
biscuits or bring me two Buffalo
nickels to commingle. My people’s
genius is unequaled. Separated
from the patent office by three
transit stations, four organic
grocers, Wells Fargo &
an ivory-spoke factory
spinning with squeaky wheels.
Unreachable by post or ballot box,
my people scream Release our throats
through a mouthful of flames
hawked into CNN headquarters.
We scarcely singe our intended
audience. The camerawoman
twists her lens, zooms in.
White folks notice their reflections—
cracked or unkind. As if,
spotlit by a giant magnifying
monocle into a parallel past.
Some of them liked it there,
called it a shade tree
to retire under. Some of them
blacked out LinkedIn.
Some of everyone saw the inside
of our deflated lung. Saw alternate
versions of themselves die
poorly, via video recording or
digital archive. Americans saw
themselves, suddenly, without.
Unemployed or bored. Watched
purple-black sore after sore, newly
snatched from a never-ending
wound I refuse to undress,
for fear of further injury.
When the fire up & seized me,
I had high blood pressure.
A history of asthma.
My days an antique carousel
on the blink. Wincing
up & down. Eyeless
ponies. Dusty bulbs.
I framed my phone inside an L
between thumb & middle digit.
Indexed a scroll of crisscrossed
ankles, wrists, brown paper dolls
intertwined by headlines, ending
in a campaign ad. My inbox rang
like a siren. Anti-racist became a badge
of solidarity. Garlic against unseemly
appearances. Name-Drop Magazine
underpaid patronage for this genius
statement. Then paraded it
as empty endorsement. Back in Harlem.
Back on Facebook, where my people are
far too acquainted with the undertaker.
Daily we understand the invisible
hand to mean byline, welt
beneath the hood. Virus, Serpentine
Fan Belt. Read the caption: I am tired.
I wrote this in search of a window, a fire
escape to descend. Kin, if you’re out there
reading, please—let the history books
show, I never needed anybody’s dead
presidents for my grief. I wanted only
to own the airwaves. To stoke the flames
& extinguish them with the same oxygen.
To revive my people with the wind.