Cortney Lamar Charleston
Obama vs. McCain

Black people place faith in a good many things, from bone marrow

meteorology to “somebody’s pregnant” fish dreams, but best believe

the U.S. government ain’t one of these, so when I tell you that we,

the black delegation, never thought this day would come I mean to say

we assumed the assassins would’ve made their moves back in June,

as if it were Bobby Kennedy all over again, but it’s November now

and here we are voting in droves for a black man who’s married to

a black woman and I’ll just reiterate none of us saw that coming,

on both counts. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little salty at having

the prospect of first pass by me by at least seventeen years per rules

of constitutional eligibility, but the tears that have made their way

from eyes to mouth taste more like sugared water to me. I shook

this man’s hand in Washington a few years back and realized then

there would always be a Negro more magical than me somewhere,

and that was a humbling thought; I came home from a summer

program at Georgetown U. and told my dad that, yes, I was sure

he’d be president someday, that the shine wasn’t a camera trick

and it looked like he kept his hair brushed and cut low like he had

good awareness of the gaze on us. And that was two years after

the red states and blue states speech at the convention, which was

months after he came through our church during the early stages

of that senate race when he became the black dude running against

a less black but darker-skinned black dude, the Democratic candidate

and ergo who we felt more comfortable rolling the dice on because

that’s just how America is set up post-Nixon’s Southern strategy;

and speaking of ’68, again, Jesse Jackson is on national television

crying on a cool night in the middle of Grant Park, which hasn’t

popped off like this since the Chicago Bulls held their championship

rallies there during the dynasty of the ’90s, the decade I came into

existence, literally born into an expectation of greatness. It pushed me

this far, to an elite education and an election night spent in company

with the kind of women you wed if you want a political career that

endures, but I excuse myself gentlemanly, step to the side and call

the house my tuition bill forwards to. I talk to Dad: tease him about

his early Edwards support because he thought Barack would never get

a fair race for obvious reasons. Hang up. Dial the number again. Wait

for Mom to answer and we speak

                                                                                before I go dance in the streets

                                                                       as if something amazing happened.






Found In Volume 47, No. 03
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  • charleston
Cortney Lamar Charleston
About the Author

Cortney Lamar Charleston is the author of Telepathologies, selected by D.A. Powell for the 2016 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. He was awarded a 2017 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and he has also received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation Literary Festival and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. His poems have appeared in POETRY, New England Review, AGNI, TriQuarterly, River Styx and elsewhere. He serves as a poetry editor at The Rumpus.