The Awkward / Black / Object

There are at least two theories about love. Both begin as violence. The subject encounters the object & a slit opens inside him. Love at first sight. Harriet’s master sees her as if for the first time & now must have her. She wakes in the night to a terrible face rising above her, a wasted moon. The question is: once made into an object-for-the-other, how can the thing-for-itself survive?

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In the airport / the bar / the movie theatre / the grocery store someone looks at you, your face, then your face in the plastic of your card, then the card, then the card, then you are caught in the frame of their looking, sealed between two panes of glass & you don’t know what has caused the moment to harden around you, not this time, but then someone chuckles & lets you pass.

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Everyone wants to know the story of my name. Everyone. It’s a nigger joke, you know. You already know the story. A man is made into a thing & sutured to it. The name.

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There’s another option. It’s not the truth, though it might be, which is, in the end, what matters. Now, when the thing is made to do dangerous work, he flings its body from the low rungs of a ladder. Limbs akimbo & fluttering & still alive.

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Someone is talking. To you. It hardly matters about what—their hand on your hand & you recognize the smile. You stutter. Mumble. Don’t look them in the eye. You fall away from the moment as if pulled by a law governing the motion of your body. You can’t help it. You’re not in control. Give your name as proof.

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The verb work. Meaning: perform labor and/or function properly. As long as the object works it is bound to its own annihilation. The solution? Fall. Fall apart. Decay.

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Harriet wasting in the garret. The slave caught in perpetual flight. The body opening to receive the bullet. The monster killing its maker & returning to the certainty of ice.

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t hate white people. Nothing here resembles hate, or freedom from hate. Love, after all, is all you need.

//

A nigger walks into a bar. A nigger falls off of a ladder. A nigger is named for its inability to function. To work. You get the joke, right? Awkward as both punishment & method. The unending flight of you to I.

//

We haven’t made it to the punch line. Everyone is waiting. Everyone wants resolution, for the poem to click shut. Who gets the last word? Who, in the end, dictates the story? I’m sorry. I really don’t know.


Cameron Awkward-Rich is the author of Sympathetic Little Monster and the chapbook Transit, Cave Canem fellow, and poetry editor for Muzzle Magazine, and a doctoral candidate in Modern Thought & Literature at Stanford University.