“A Brief History of Poetry” by Cortney Lamar Charleston

Cortney Lamar Charleston


after Dan Albergotti

All day the boy sits behind the house
with his dog; all day the dog sits with him.
Well before then, the boy is dog himself:
obedient, sharp-toothed thing. Sun-kissed
boy. Too much kissed by sun, too much
kissed early on. Forgets his sharp teeth.
Forgets his animal, his beast, his chain
of events that keeps him in the yard. Swoons
to the song of chain in swish. Fetches after
the orange ball like a good dog. Dog of sun.
Dog of Jesus. Dog that kneels when told,
genuflects on cue, that loves the sound of
tambourines, of metals fracturing silence.
He gets fed good meats. Plays with bones,
or studies archaeology, as some may call it.
Unearths. Devolves as he evolves. Hypothesizes
he is mutt on his father’s side, probably of
mixing by force. He is boy now, the smallness
of men. Wants his own dog, no longer to be
dog, wants to be man. Finally gets dog that
he sits with behind the house, the house he
gets moved from, made to mix by force of
proximity. Finds himself having to kiss up
because he is too sun-kissed to be down
with the other boys. Doesn’t use the same
words, or uses the same words differently.
Can’t figure out if he is still barking or they are.
All his old friends were his dogs, but he is boy
now, so he thinks, not completely hip to his
mouth re-learning the shape of certain words,
why suddenly they interest him like the hind-
quarters of a bitch, an instinct he should be
beyond, may have accidentally taught himself,
become dog again when his first dog died: when
it had a stroke behind the house and he sat there
with it until his father could cart it off to sleep.

from Rattle #46, Winter 2014


Cortney Lamar Charleston: “This affair with poetry began after attending a spoken word showcase on my college campus. One performer by the name of Joshua Bennett drew me in, particularly. He was everything I loved about rhythm, about the black body, about the courage I had in me that I rarely showed. Before I knew it, I was putting every pound of me into verse of some type; all that paper became heavy. It became my go-to for explaining weight-gain to loved ones. Them old folks always said I was a heavy boy.” (web)

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