October 25, 2017

Cameron Barnett

NEW FRUIT HUMMING

after Iron & Wine

I’m here to say sorry.
Because you definitely said splotchy.
Because I definitely heard splotchy,
because I definitely told everyone about
how you said splotchy with your eyes cast down,
and everyone said “Ain’t that some shit!” because
who the hell talks about their kids like that?
So I’m here to say sorry.
Because I told the story wrong, which is to say
I didn’t stay silent, which isn’t to say I told you
the truth, because the truth can look like a second
chance, and a second chance is just a hesitation
hesitating too long, and it took too long to get
our story straight, and what I really said was
“I know …” or “Yeah …” and took a bite
of the pear in my hand because we were under
an apple tree, and you brought pears, and I thought
“How strange is this,” never doubting the taste
in my mouth, never doubting what I tasted
wasn’t the flesh of the fruit, never admitting that
to you because I loved you, and you loved me
so we never made demands and we never agreed,
we just lied and lied and lied—and I’ve lied
about this story before; we weren’t in bed
because we were definitely under an apple tree
as much as an apple tree can be a bed, and
it was definitely hotter than August though the sun
said April, and you said “It just worries me,”
and now I’m here to say sorry.
Because I was wrong to believe you were afraid
of anything, because my blackness wasn’t anything
to be afraid of, because my blackness wasn’t anything
to you. I don’t tell people we were under a tree because
a bed is a better place to lie, or a better place to lay,
because I still mix up laying and lying, because the story
is still so mixed up I don’t know if it even matters
because I loved you, and you loved me,
and we both got stuck, so we both went free,
because forgiveness is an act of retelling,
and forgiveness is an act of retelling,
and forgiveness is an act of retelling.
When I think back on that day I start to cry
not because I’m sad, but because my left eye
and my right eye can’t put you together, and it hurts
to try because you were so mixed up, because
you were so afraid of us mixing, and that’s why
we were under a tree and not in a bed, and that’s
why my blackness is afraid of nothing, and that’s
why it’s so hard to lie sometimes, and I’d be lying
if I said I’m sorry because I loved you, and you
loved me, and now there’s new fruit humming
in the old fruit tree.

from Rattle #57, Summer 2017
Tribute to Rust Belt Poets

[download audio]

__________

Cameron Barnett: “I’ve lived in Pittsburgh ever since my family moved here in 1996. My parents grew up here but my siblings and I were all born in California—but I credit being raised in Pittsburgh with turning me into the person I am today. Pittsburgh is often associated with blue collar grit, and this still rings true though our steel mills have fallen silent. For me, grit is an ancestral quality of this city. I come from a lineage of black Americans who escaped slavery and Jim Crow and made it to Pittsburgh, only to fight and desegregate and integrate this city during the Civil Rights era of the ’50s and ’60s. In particular, my grandfather Bishop Charles Foggie stands out as a fighter and champion of liberty. I take his legacy as a family torch to be carried, and this informs my writing. My poems largely have to do with race and family, as well as how those two things intersect in my own personal relationships. Pittsburgh is a city that is at once progressive and antiquated, and this is indicative of the Rust Belt—always seeking to get ahead, but hesitant to cast off the past too quickly. This struggle shaped my family, my childhood, my education, and shapes my poetry today.” (website)

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