Cortney Lamar Charleston

“Ghazal on the Cusp of Rage,” I find, is as apt a title as I’ve ever come up with for a poem. The piece is also an example where the ghazal form, with its ritual repetition, serves to mirror the spiritual-emotional fixation I have as a black poet on “and again, and again, and again.” In the aftermath of the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and too many others, alongside the rise of Black Lives Matter—my work has been possessed, for lack of a better word, with the systemic onslaught of black men, women and children in the United States of America. Being a black person myself, concerned about the safety of my own body (as I must be to survive), nothing in the text of the poems I’ve written is or ever was foreign to me; what has changed is that I am more confident than ever in my ability to speak to my racialized existence in a way that others can understand, and so I do speak because silence is simply a luxury nobody can afford: not me for the sake of my own safety, for everyone for the sake of our collective consciousness and conscience. In my case, this poetic work has helped me find balance, to keep some level of sanity amid the sorrow, amid the confusion, amid the clarity and amid the rage. This poem very much archives the going through the tempest that is black American life with a hopeful eye toward a nation, a world, that one day may be. Should be.