self-portrait as the space between us

— Trace Howard DePass

              these days i just watch
them take the room inside their body
              when they’re center-stage,
which means they walk into the room like gravity, or
              the room, itself;

              my body disarms
my head to paint my assailant as the silhouette
              on my right,
in the black box theater. but i once found them as beautifully
              drawn. & imagine
if everybody around us
              knew it: a black hole as a self-
portrait; them as a
              dark brush against my     canvas, cracking it open, ’til i was
devoid of some uniquenesses

but not of my Black. i was the reaction to the room Black resides in,
              a rewinding Black
body sitting in the present            whose body once adapted to veering
              under my red light

                                                                                                  of triggers
in a​ ​play​ ​about power:                   this: misreading of no
even in english,                              becoming creole               of silence,
              unending                          of ‘self’, the self                 (but for whom?)
objectiveness objects,                    ‘his’ [​name​—                     each Black congregate;
                                                        of noun known such        there was
a subject                                         in ‘his’ education,             history, wherein
‘he’ was so                                       much of the subject,        his body was considered
biased, relative                               if not subjective,              and could not be
but, beforehand,                            a literal object;                       so much so
              they​ ​skinned & scorched his whole name & ‘he’]
                             became ​history​—e.g.,

i, before i brush my teeth before the mirror, drag
this        parade of history to the back of my head,
              short tale as a pony, hogtied
for my nappy Black hairs in order
to look professional-like & ‘enough’
enough while the voice inside asks, as if i’m not me,

              as if i’m guilty of my death,
as if i’m the only only only one the other side of who hurt me/alone,

                             with which
              body, with whose autonomy,
              with which right would he
              continue to move? onto where?
              & since his body was punctuated
              male, why couldn’t it?

                                                        the left side of the cerebral cortex colors
                                                        the right side of my room any shade i like
                                                        to be, right when they walk into a scene i
                                                        happen to be inside of, wherein they
                                                        have made their body center-stage of mine.

Read more from Issue No. 19 or share on Twitter.