Lesson for Cortney

By CORTNEY LAMAR CHARLESTON

after Lewis Holt

Those are traffic lights. They help stop people from
driving into each other. That’s a crescent moon and star
on top of that building. It means the people inside are part
of The Nation. That’s a gas station. That’s a McDonald’s.
That’s a Burger King. That’s a fried fish and chicken joint.
This blue thing is a mailbox. It’s for letters. You use it when
you have someone to write to who left. You’re right, that’s
an old car. The window broke so they use a trash bag to keep
the heat in or keep the cold out. This looks like a paper cut,
son. That’s a drop of blood. It’s warm because you’re warm
inside. That’s an ambulance for taking people to the hospital
when they’re hurt or losing blood. Not like you did, but a lot
more than that. That’s a police officer. That’s a gun on his hip.
Those are dangerous. That’s a fire truck and those people riding
on the side of it are firefighters. That’s really a church, they just
put it inside an old store. Yes, that’s a painting of Jesus. His skin
is different colors in different people’s houses sometimes. That’s
a bad school. Those metal bars keep bad people out. That’s where
grown-ups get their alcohol. Yes, kids can get candy there. This is
money and this is money, too. Not everyone has that. Don’t pick that
up. No, I’m not quite sure what that is. That’s a tree, son. No, I’ve never
climbed one or wanted to. Those are probably pigeons. C’mon, you know
that’s a belt. No, belts aren’t only for when kids are bad. This is a good school.
This is why you’re here. This is your uniform, a blue shirt and black pants. Yes,
that’s a picture of Jesus hanging over there. Remember what I told you about that.

 

[Purchase Issue 13 here]

Cortney Lamar Charleston is a Cave Canem Fellow and the author of Telepathologies (Saturnalia Books, 2017). His poems appear in Beloit Poetry Journal, Gulf Coast, New England Review, Poetry, River Styx, and elsewhere.

Sunna JuhnLesson for Cortney

Related Posts

image of field with poppies

Essential Summer Reads 2019

With July well underway, we've put together a list of transportive pieces that encapsulate the spirit of summer—the dust above the country roads, the coolness of the waterfronts, the anticipation of autumn, and of course, the sticky, melting sweetness of ice cream. Take a trip through space and time with these summery selections. 

Image of poetry feature logo

June 2019 Poetry Feature: Eleanor Stanford

ELEANOR STANFORD
I don’t think, you said, you want to leave your husband. Our faces were pressed close together in the dark. No, I said quietly. The only way to guarantee the protection of certain cave structures is to guarantee the stability of the vegetation on the surface.

image of street with buildings and fence

Immigrant Ditty

VLADIMIR GANDELSMAN
"Immigrant Ditty"
The sun goes down. The supermarket / floods with dead light. Now the gate / caws at you in the near darkness. / A not-so-magic key might blaze. / Can’t steal happiness, now, can you? / Win Lotto America! This, / as they call it, is a beeldeeng,