“ … Everyday Something Has Tried to Kill Me and Has Failed”

Cortney Lamar Charleston

      after Lucille Clifton

         What might do me in is the telling of a white lie.

Having my gut confused for a knife block.

         The structural failure of my body to process sugar.

The ferry could capsize and my lungs will sponge the river

of its acids. Maybe hipsters have moved into this neighborhood,

made it safe, as danger always begins, or I've breathed

in the legacy of industry for too many years,

to the point this economy of blood must collapse.

There’s the one of many silver bullets that could

take a chance at love and kiss my forehead, the chance

I’m taken for someone with a different name.

Maybe the next great war will pass me on the street and

claim me as a souvenir. I could be seen as a common criminal

and they decide to skip the trial completely; I could conjure

the beast that gnaws my bones just by being colorful.

                        Jumped, as a kind of broom into new beginnings —

                                       yes, I can fathom that, too.

Cars can drive the speed limit or above. The body,

which is mostly water, likewise conducts electricity;

a Taser can be reached for and come up the trigger that

ends it all, and that’s not just a movie the critics clap for.

The catcalling hard hats can miss hammering a nail,

leave a screw loose that would’ve helped bear the load

of light I will lose when it all comes down on me

like an answered prayer with booming thunder and a bolt.

In a moment of panic, I may forget the words needed to barter

for my life; there's the issue of a paycheck being taken away

at-will, me being forced to eat myself to the point of invisibility

except for 32 teeth spread in the dust, ivory of easy poaching.

Planes crash to earth like the rare shooting star. Cells

multiply themselves and build jails on top of dwindling bone.

They can mount their flag in my eye for all I know, but

all I know is that they haven’t yet: call it Jesus or dumb luck.

about the author