Hate Is a Strong Word

Muscular as a stallion in fact — 
but I have no horse in this race of people against people.

It was made certain I wouldn’t, that I’d inherit nothing
except a whipping of my hindquarters as a form of correction,
in the cadence of I love you, tar baby, I love you.

This is not unlike how my parents were raised, to comply,
and their parents before them, and theirs before them and so forth
as far back as anyone cared to speak of what they lived
through, the preposterous preposition of it all.

Therefore and thereafter, whenever I hear the word pedigree,
I think of the blank check I don’t have behind my name,
and then I think of saddles and stirrups, and then
the soreness of my lower back, and then the source of that.

How a boss can ride you: of this I am personally familiar,
plus know by blood drawn from two lines of family men
forced to cut out their own tongues to keep food on the table
they could no longer taste or even stand to.

Their tongues grew back, yes, after some time and with
sharpness I’m told, needing to cut against something,
anything, to be purposeful given their new forms.

Woe! Woe! Woe! How a man rides his wife, his children,
how he’d ride a horse he’ll never have, could never give them
unless said horse is immaterial, hence not a horse at all — 

just muscular, as a stallion is, as a word is that’s denied
striving families horsepower, any engine beyond their
fragile bodies to propel them forward; the whole race:
forward, even if it pits people against a people,
even if it means rearing a rear end tender and raw.
I love you, tar baby, I love you
something strong.

More Poems by Cortney Lamar Charleston