Sketch With Warming Sea, Cortés, and Danger

— Justin Davis

All I see are sea levels, rising heat,
the coast pulling itself up itself to
kiss me. The way the con in con man
stands for confidence, I mostly feel
in or out of danger. Maybe capital-
ism’s been snatching all my sleep.
Maybe what I Henrietta Lacks is a body
free of scrutiny and cost. Half my body’s
worth building a wall against. The other
half is coal, black lung, a sign of danger.
People call the cops to ask them what I am.
My long hair makes me look illegal.
These days, just about anything can be
owned: the land, your DNA, an island of garbage,
a replica of the joy Reagan felt when a nigga
became a ghost. I want to own a coral reef
just so I can keep it alive. I know the sea
keeps coughing up phlegm, but somehow
I’m still here, still here like a language I never
got to speak, still here like the curls of my father’s
curt hair. Look: so much of history is gifts
you never asked for. Cortés took something
from me, but he gave me something too.

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