dear editors

would you like me
to tell you
about black pain

if you want
i can show you
my father’s
my mother’s
my baby brother’s
my dead brother’s

and it’s certain now
as it has ever been
the permanency of death
the color of it

the mark it leaves
like ashes
on our foreheads

i must tell you
i know there are secrets
you wish
to pry
from my mind

but i must tell you
i’ve locked them away
in the same
cold place
you’ve stowed
your hearts
for safekeeping

far too kind

i walk into the dining room
and sit down
as a sea of candles
light up a thicket
of white faces
that surround me

across the table
a lady smiles at me
and says
god i loved your book
it was so real

she talks
as everyone else
meddles with their
slick mandarin salads
and listens

my mind is still outside
uptown on Peniston
and circles the block
in search of
a place to park

i flip my thick twists
out of my eyes
check my teeth
for lipstick
in the rearview mirror

turn down the radio
as childish gambino
pleads with me
to stay woke

i find a spot
as a white woman
draped in the shadow
of a dark mansion
across the street
has stopped
to watch

her platinum hair shines
white as sin
under the street lights

her gaze sharp
like an elegant heel
pressed against
the nape of my neck

i lock the car door
turn to her and smile hello
but she doesn’t respond
just stares

as i walk up to the house
fumble with the fence latch
still aware of that stare

that followed me
to the dining room table
that passed me the coq au vin
that poured another rush
of Bourgogne into my glass
that crushed me
with polite conversation

my hand shakes slightly
as i finally respond
thank you so much for reading
you are far too kind
you are far too kind

Skye Jackson
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