cortney charleston

You're Only As Healthy As You Feel

This is how it should be done:                  place the pistol, loaded,
in the nightstand nearest where the last letter of the alphabet

repeats itself.                  In the same drawer, set a stolen hotel Bible:
the New International Version.                  In the event of bodies colliding

in a fender-bender, stow away some condoms that can survive
the tread of a hunger pang.                  It might even be worth it to stash

a notepad and pen there if you’re a sensitive type, find yourself always
at the tipping point like a bottle full of tequila.                  Don’t forget

the pills, either.                  Hold those within reach of a gasp for air –
pop them all, watch the lines blur and black swallow every other color like

a ghetto music.                  Have a dog around, too.                  A big dog with a mouth
the size of a city, teeth jagged as a skyline’s tracing.                  Two dogs, even.

Two big ones.                  Think about Pit bulls, Rottweilers. Don’t bank
large sums of money in the house; it’s trite and the back can’t cope with

that kind of mattress anyhow.                  Before hitting the sack for good,
make sure the house is empty, except for the dogs, of course.                  Check

to see if the gun is resting safely in the nightstand drawer.                  If not
there, check inside your mouth, by the dogs’ water dish, maybe under

the toilet hood. Lock all your doors and windows tight.                  Keep light on
in the hallway to scare away any dark figures.                  Pour yourself a glass

of ice cold water, and bring it bedside.                  Read scripture and pray.
Add several milligrams to make it happen faster, maybe not wake up

too sore, back due for a good massage.                  Remember to put on a rubber
before the night consumes you, in case a blessing comes in your sleep.


As of 2015: Cortney Lamar Charleston lives in Jersey City, NJ. He is a Cave Canem fellow; an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania’s performance poetry collective, The Excelano Project; and a founder of BLACK PANTONE, an inclusive digital cataloging of black identity. His poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Beloit Poetry Journal, Crab Orchard Review, Eleven Eleven, Folio, Juked, The Normal School, pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture, Rattle, and elsewhere.

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