Joshua Bennett

Token Sings the Blues

You always or almost
always only one
in the room. Maybe two.
Three is a crowd. Three
is a gang. Three
is a company
of thieves!10!!10!Three is
wow there’s so many of you
Three will get you confused
with people that look nothing
like you you get called
Devin your name isn’t
Devin you do your best
not to ignore such casual
erasure as you know silence
will be received as affirmation
praise even & you always affirmative
You affirmative action action figure
You fantastic first black
friend!10!!10!You first ballot
quota keeper!10!!10!You almost
cry when your history
professor says you know
in this country the gold standard
used to be people Funny
!10!no one comes right out
& says things like you people
anymore it’s all code
words like thug or diversity
hire You diversity all by yourself
You contain multitudes & are yet
contained everywhere you go
confined like there is always someone
watching you & isn’t there & isn’t that
the entire point of the flesh
you inherited this unrepentant
stain be twice as good mama
says as if what they have is worth
your panic worth measuring
your very life against
& you always remember to measure.
Your hair, your volume, your tone
over email. You perpetually sorry.
You don’t know why. You apologize
to no one in particular just for being around
& in your body at the same time
You know your body is the real problem
You monster!10!!10!You beast of burden You beast
& burden You horse but human
You centaur You map
the stars & pull back your bow
to shoot
!50! the moon in its one good white eye
!50!!50!!50!!50!!50!!50!You are everything
your big sister says
& on your best
days above ground you
believe her

Joshua Bennett is a doctoral candidate in the English Department at Princeton University. Winner of the 2015 National Poetry Series, his poems have been published in Beloit Poetry Journal, Callaloo, the Kenyon Review and elsewhere. Penguin Books will publish his first collection of poems, The Sobbing School, in 2016. Joshua is also the founding editor of Kinfolks: a journal of black expression.