Self-Portrait as a Shadow

Self-Portrait as a Shadow


for V. Lamar

Word is I wasn’t born so much as skimmed off another living thing
by a source of light. Let’s just say that you are light-skinned and
the back of my mom’s hand is a color best worn around the eyes
after a knuckle’s kiss, though this fact itself is not here to imply
I was born of an act of violence, but, rather, that I was born into
violence as a cultural practice and product. And I enter post-crack,
post-Reagan, when the big city newspapers sell themselves with
headlines about shadow-on-shadow crime like light doesn’t factor
into the equation by definition, like light doesn’t have a gaze upon
the world called the day. Fact of the matter is—

sad as the matter is,
I can only see myself in relation to it, to the light; I can only move in
reaction to movement, my ankles shackled to dogma that dogs me and us
out from the moment of first appearance. In my case, that’s June 1990.
Summer. Maternity ward full of shadows and from then on I can only
measure love by the number of nightmares I have in a shortened span
of space and simultaneity. They all always say I look like my daddy,
which is to frame me a shadow in a related sense, which is to say your
presence gives my own life definition, which is what they like to say
on TV whenever some kid like me is extinguished too soon. Under the
lights, I make due with all of this being watched and watched over and
I make questions of it, too. And I ask. And you answer: not always well,
often incompletely but completely honest at the same time, and that is
how the concept of faith clicks for me, how I learn to perturb politics
and push myself into conversations like the connotation of a word or
phrase, which, too, is a form of shadow, thus a part of me, who upon
a lot of light shines that I take advantage of, take care that whenever
they flick the switch to turn them on—themselves, on—that they’ll
be sure to see me trailing tightly behind, keeping them on their toes
like they’ve kept me on mine, like you always told me they would.

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