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Two poems by Mckendy Fils-Aimé

sipèstisyon

If people say your child is beautiful, your child will become ugly.

 

ok, i confess. once, i said fuck you

to danny perkins on the last day

of kindergarten after a miserable year

of being pushed around the schoolyard

 

by him & his friends– & thrown into the dirt

nearly every day, my shins left speaking

a pink & pus language. danny gifted me

names that were jagged as shattered glass

 

yet for months, i managed to avoid smithing one

for him in the forge of my mouth. how i wanted to

preserve the sainthood bestowed upon me

by my favorite teachers. instead, i chose to tell

 

mrs. jones, & watch her scold danny

who i would later hear renewing his vow

to be meaner next time. & the times after

he was, until this last day before summer

 

vacation when he & i crossed paths

behind the cubby while packing

to go home. that’s when the words fumbled

from my lips: a pocket knife tumbling

 

down a pair of baggy jeans & onto the floor,

a tool too taboo for our young hands to hold

but i dared to wield. & when danny told

mrs. jones, she asked him to stop lying

 

& i smiled. my tongue: a murder weapon

spotted with smudged fingerprints.


 



TW/CW: racism


and for a moment, a new hampshire middle school solves racism

 

& what do you expect from a school with the state record for the most chicken nuggets served? at lunch, i watch Jacob, Tarek, & Heather pour ketchup & mayo into their trays, swirling the two into a pink ooze before submerging their morsels of bird, their dunks staggered as if taking turns torturing their nuggies for nuclear codes. i’m appalled by the strange concoction– imagining their trays full of blood-tinged pus– yet i say nothing, because i’m still new to this small new england town where the trees outnumber the sidewalks & the white people outnumber everything. & because they’re the only kids in school who’ve watched Trigun or understand the meaning of the term LAN Party, we’re basically a crew. & in 2000, a crew of black, brown, & white nerds forming a friendship might be the most radical thing new hampshire has ever seen. everyone has a different name for the ooze: fry sauce, pink sauce, mayo-ketchup. i call it the place where ketchup goes to die. i’d call it assimilation, but i won’t understand the weight of that word for another decade. i am still a year away from watching two orange tipped towers smolder behind tv static & two from Tarek getting suspended for fighting one of Jacob’s new friends & three from Tarek moving back to Egypt without telling anyone & four from Jacob wearing a t-shirt that says it’s not that i hate black people, i just never met a nigger that i liked & four from wanting the school to respond with something other than free speech & five from Heather saying that Jacob isn’t racist & expecting me to believe her. i don’t believe her like i don’t believe ketchup & mayo make anything delicious. & maybe that’s the new hampshire in me– an idyllic alcove smattered with love letters to othering– or maybe it’s the immigrant boy running from assimilation. there’s that word again: assimilation. i hear it & picture an etch a sketch rattled back to a blank screen, or the cops called to my mother’s new house, but enough about that. that comes later. did you forget why we’re here? the moment, not the aftermath. the skin before the bruise. the hand before the clenched fist. the plane before it veers off course & towards a skyline. & i guess that might be a lie too. what is aftermath but a string of moments– bound, aware or unaware of their lineage– like strands of sisal weaving into a noose?



Mckendy Fils-Aimé is a Haitian-American poet, organizer, and educator. He has received residencies and fellowships from MassLEAP, the Art Alliance of Northern New Hampshire, and Callaloo. His manuscript, There’s No Door To Walk Through If The House Is Destroyed, was the runner-up for the 2024 Granite State Poetry Prize. Mckendy’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bellingham Review, Acentos Review, The Shore, The Journal, and elsewhere. He lives in Lowell, MA..

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