I Do Not Know My Name

Editor’s Note: This is part 3 of a 5-part series of poems titled Red Summer. The rest of the series can be found here.

I am used to this.

being cut to my imagined core, cracked in half dripping blood on the sidewalk. I smear my bare feet into it. each step is my graffiti. damage is the only art that matters. you look past it, clothes, articulate speech, and you see me. I am a beast who has learned to juggle. I fingerpaint my identity on the papers, and all you are is amused. it is my lifeblood and you have put it on your fridge. I am worth it as long as I continue making things like this. you make “suggestions” and press them into my hands. what you mean is that I am nothing until you grant me an idea or two. your aim is to save me from negroness and I accept that it is progressive. if the world agrees that I killed a cop, does it matter if I didn’t? if the world agrees I’m dangerous, I suppose I am. the blood is drying now, and it will be hard to remove. you have cut me open, trafficked my organs and declined to acknowledge my heart. is it true then, that I am just violent meat? that I exist to draw your beauty and intelligence into sharper relief? you lie to me and I watch the world make it true and I know you hold my body in your hands. i am being denied the right to define myself. i rip my own heart from my chest and slap it on the wall, i rub it into the concrete and paint it on my face. you all continue to walk by, seeing my mangled flesh spread before you, smelling it rot in the heat of this crimson summer, hearing it sizzle and continuing on. i paint and i paint and i die a little bit at a time and only then do you see me. you begin to scavenge my body, make ink from my blood. make paper from my flesh. make quills from my fingerbones. i am worth a narrative now, and you write it as you wrote it before. you tried to help me but i didn’t reach out. you saw the signs and did nothing. you were my friends. you wish i had said something. you are angry with me. in death, i become an accessory. you sell pictures of the paintings. you remember my name because my body is finally cool enough to eat. i will cry black tears and they will soak the earth in my memory and you will ignore them in your rush to consume my body. i am used to the swallowing. i am used to the digestion, and the shitting out. i am awake for it all. what is left? who am i now? tell me. can you please tell me my name?