The most comfortable I have ever been
In Black skin,
Is lost in Sugar Hill
Catching the 3 train to Brooklyn.
When the doors close,
I’m in an all but empty car
With an elderly man who takes the seat across from me.
Hair curled like mine,
Brown and beige skin like mine ,
Eyes were like mine
Creasing tightly at the corners
As a sign of being nervous.
In a trembling tone,
He asks me a question
In a language as unfamiliar as my ancestors.
I hear my own voice in his,
Fifty years wiser,
Reaching out to me for some type of direction.
Hoping to hear
I’ve crossed borders to find you
Or maybe he’s waited at 148th,
Knowing I’d find myself
Between Harlem and Washington Heights
At some point in my life.
It was more than Spanish
That grew the division as distant as the diaspora.
Every shade of brown in our skin different became magnified.
The curls that didn’t quite twist spoke volumes.
Spoke louder than even words would have communicated,
Had the words not been locked behind my still lips.
I don’t understand,
No habla Español,
No soy where I am,
No soy who I am,
No words formed.
Nothing in the form sound.
Nothing moved in my body.
The weight of my blood
Became granite settling in my feet.
Sweat shrinks the lines in my palms.
Except for the shame.
Drew my eyes away from his,
Deeper into their own creases.
A sputtering rhythm from mi cori…mi coroz…
Silence a border.
The stillness between pushes us further a part,
Further beneath this concrete city,
Further into the sound of inertia,
Passing through the hallow of this train,
Further into what is unfamiliar in ourselves.
Changes in gene expression
That do not change the sequence of one’s DNA.
Me and Abuelito,
Two versions of history
Locked in the same double helix.
One body on both sides of colonization.
Lost in two languages,
Lost in diaspora,
Lost in history,
Or lost on the 3 train.
Anthony S. Blacksher is a poet, professor, and vinyl record collector. Writing and perfoming under the name Ant Black, he is the associate publisher of San Diego Poetry Annual. He performs regularly with the dance collective bkSoul, producing collaborative theater for social justice and awareness. As a founding member of Collective Purpose and the open-mic Elevated, Anthony helped bring the San Diego spoken word and poetry slam scene to national prominence. He is a professor of sociology at San Bernardino Valley College and also doctoral candidate of Cultural Studies at Claremont Graduate University. Anthony’s dissertation, Life After Def: New(er) Black Intellectuals in Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam, explores how spoken word poets negotiate their role as intellectuals and performers on a television show.