“Elegy for Killmonger With My Own Pain Entering Frame,” by Cortney Lamar Charleston, appeared in the Winter 2019 Issue of MQR.
Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships because they knew death was better than bondage— yeah,
I heard about what you said, but nah. We both know I, the African lost in America, had to come and claim your body. And to level with you, homie, when I got word, no shock shot through me like the lightning of revelation. I figured it was always going to end this way for you, bruh; the child of pain is obviously pain as well, couldn’t dream of being anything more than its sorry daddy was.
Yo… my bad, E: I’m still really sorry about your pops.
He seemed—to me, even as a shorty—to be a solid man: present, principled, dignified, almost like royalty dipped in black paint.
Part of me thinks he’d have made a decent king if a king was something to believe in, which I don’t believe it is, I mean, just look at what kings did to the block, to the world. Hell, look
at what the idea of a throne did to you, your entire body printed with the braille of insatiable ego and ambition; and rage, too— what morphs us men like steroids do, turns the darkest of us,
the me’s and the you’s, into atom bombs without detonation clocks erasing anybody within range of our hands or their hired guns.
At some point I feel we start losing track of whether the supremacy does this to us or we do it to ourselves, but I’ve thought on it a bit, and I’ve come to believe the truth has two faces: the one we hate and the one we hate. I wonder which face flashed before your eyes with the last kick of the war drum; if there’s a God for gutter-folk, hopefully, it was hers you saw—homegirl, forever down for you, ride or die, loved the mess out of you, I thought. Hoped.
I said before I wasn’t surprised, but that was only true until I saw her body wasn’t here laying next to yours, y’all curled up together in power like quotation marks. I don’t know if she got out or got in the middle of it, but I had a soft spot for her standing by yo buckwild ass even when you was on some absolute bull, when you should’ve behaved like you’d read a damn book in your life, and I know you read many ’cause I caught you once in second grade and clowned you all the way to MIT. My favorite book coming up was The Autobiography of Malcolm X ’cause it was supposed to be, you know? The half I finished, anyway. Remember that, homie?
Is that too far back? I can’t even recall when we last spoke, honestly. Maybe I’ve been dead too long myself, but I believe it’s been just long enough for me to forgive you for it, enough to swoop you, take you to the other side of the sun where we can ball pick-up like that’s all life is, like it used to be when we were misspelled boyz.