on Claudia Rankine’s Citizen (an extended poem)

no exaggeration to state that my body quakes
my eyes the amateur boxer
experienced tears the reigning champion
the internal awakening is incomparable

the way I feel when I read my people

truth sucked from my soul onto the page
size 14 black font
white paper

Rankine’s, Baldwin’s, Jordan’s words
yet the truth is mine

the avid reader I am
since childhood:
leaping from cliffhangers
hiding from the shadows
burying in the pages of fantasy

but only these Black voices evoke
gentle caresses validating previous thoughts
unearthing my Blackness under the weight of hooded spectres
tectonic plates of Black theory colliding creating new matter

page 14: I stop to write
this brink
this precipice
feeling like a citizen

page 17: forced to pick up my phone at 2:53pm
my black pen testifies to
“newly found uncles and brothers”
and Eve Ewing, Chicago summer 2015 speaks through
the brother who walked past
chimed in later with an are-you-alright to the group
the group who went out to meet the woman
the woman who the group hadn’t met in person
Mellon Mays and @ signs tying a string around our color
the woman who live tweeted
the campus police
the city police
the campus police and the city police
inhabiting four large sports utility vehicles
apprehending three young men
three young Black men pulled over for biking
while Black

one supposedly stole a phone
Eve questioned
can police question
can police hold kids without their parents
the group
the group who went out to meet the woman
containing only male: me
the group of many sisters
one brother to protect these young brothers
to meet up with this sister
yet it was too late
police took the kids
their bikes
vehicles remained

afraid of the fate of Sandra Bland
the woman cried in her car
helpless in the face of hapless cops
the young woman
a hero stood yet
in the face of the slave patrol
a single Black woman is never safe

page 18: tears
when the new therapist yells at the author like a dog
“When he door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs,
Get away from my house!
What are you doing in my yard?”
“I am sorry. I am so sorry, so, so sorry.”
I have no patience for whiteness.

page 25: “what does a victorious or defeated black woman’s body in a historically white space look like?”
all I can think is: where in the U.S. do those spaces exist.
the Black church the result of, the mark of, settler colonialism
the Black _______ tainted by ________
the Black hair salon may be one of the only spaces
unless one wants to venture into
domestic work
the Black launderer
the Jezebel
what is a historically black space?
where is a historically black space?
why does she not capitalize the b?

this poem becomes a note to self: look up Patricia Willians’ Alchemy of Race and Rights, as cited on page 34

page 36: ignored as I view

page 37: a white blonde woman tennis player whose name is irrelevant
stuffed bra
stuffed ass
skirt with the adidas logo embossed
underneath the logo in the designer’s name:
stella mccartney
all lowercase letters
elbow pointy
hair frizzy
glossed nails pointing
her fake ass
yet not making contact
don’t forget
teeth-baring smile
she knows what she is doing.

I must ask myself:
how do white people move through life in such an ahistorical manner?
I tweet about this I move back to

page 36: disassociation
Beyoncé as Sasha Fierce to perform
the claim that Serena Williams “has had to split herself off from herself and create different personae.”
survival strategies

Page 41: section III reminds me that I fly through this book because it is my truth
“What did you say? You ask, though you have heard every word.”
as familiar to me as my first name
as if I am reading theatre directions that embodies the director’s intents
the author’s intent
down to the syllable.


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