“When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Martyr”

is surely a peculiar answer for any teacher to receive when
asking a kindergartner, but on second take, what word best
describes me, crossbreed of butterfly and Super Fly aesthetics,
other than peculiar? I suppose calling me a keen kid would
also suffice in explaining my avidity for the kind of death that
progresses the narrative of a gentling history, because that’s
the only frame for greatness I seem to find for boys my shade
and age to aspire to, short of having the height and hops to
touch the rim, or the bulk and burst to break through the
defensive line like a bullet.
And, no, I haven’t given up
on the prospect of Bulls starting shooting guard yet, but
the God-fearer impressed upon me begs the mythology of
goodness delivered to the multitudes like loaves and fish;
how King is talked about in a black Christian tradition still
in mourning over his lost rays of light, the way mentioning
the name of Malcolm makes mice of shady white men some
thirty years after the shotgun and he’s sung of as a prince:
I want to evoke that level of pride in American democracy’s
dark downtrodden because I know what it invokes in me,
young and impressionable, watching Denzel’s mimicry
for the one millionth time in my abbreviated existence — 
drawing an X on my undeveloped chest, pushing it out
into the unknown-ahead hoping a Mecca for melanin rises
from the man-shaped hole I’d left in my loved ones’ lives.

I bet my parents would be so proud of me.
I bet post offices would close on my birthday.
I bet God would dap me up
when I got up there and Jesus — 

dying on a cross to meet me.

More Poems by Cortney Lamar Charleston