Nappy Nappy Joy Joy



In a small, tender moment, my boo-thang

pinches a curl of my hair between her fingertips:

four weeks’ worth of resistance to the cost

of living being too damn high and rising like

the stakes.

I know my barber has to eat,

but it ain’t gotta be all off me at this point,

setting my code of generosity aside. Economics

is an everyday brush with death, I think to myself,

brushing my naps as flat as Negro-ly possible, trimmer

trying to persuade my beard to tow a line I’m drawing

in flesh, but radicalism means becoming irreconcilable

to the status quo in every way―

a square at my roots,

I can’t stop my locks from multiplying in length nor do

I care to attempt anymore, or about making myself

presentable to those tribunals physical and meta

trying to stop my stunting on the whole world

like I’m supposed to. Instead, I accept the wildness

of my body is a popular music that everyone wants a

piece of: to talk mess about, to police, to protest against

then slap labels on like I didn’t have parents worth a damn,

so I let it all rock, let it bang: this body. Boogie to the bone,

make no mistake I know I’m blessed to be here or to be at all

with all my funk intact, as in I keep it funky. Keep it in the funk

like Jesus’s blood keeps me from losing my religion on all those

folks who say they have one but don’t, but I don’t have time for

that or them. Time is money as they say and, like a busted clock,

I’m broke all but two times a month and this here is a poor day

to ask me for change for the record, that you can believe in.




Today is the first of the month,

so I cut the regrettable rent check


across the inside of my wrist

and watch a form of currency


trickle down my forearm,

admiring its easy liquidity.

Cortney Lamar Charleston is the author of Telepathologies, selected by D.A. Powell for the 2016 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. He was awarded a 2017 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and he has also received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation Literary Festival and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. His poems have appeared in POETRY, New England Review, Gulf Coast, TriQuarterly, River Styx and elsewhere. He serves as a poetry editor at The Rumpus.