Cover 14

I Think Everybody Has a Year They Never Really Leave

Julian Randall

If song is the yolk of grief, then a year is not dissimilar to a bruise. I come from a thread of tragic men mourning other tragic men. There are men I cannot touch when I need to and all of them are related to me. I am saying that once I was small and this is how I learned my father was going to die someday.

We were in the parking lot outside of Blockbuster; it was raining because I remember it raining; because I am always ready to conjure something to hide my father’s grief in. It must have been 2004 because every station was playing Dance with My Father on repeat. Luther Vandross had a stroke a month before and even the static wept. And there, to my left my father crying and my hands too small to fetch even a single tear.

He asked me a question that was not his question Why does the music have to have words at all? He means that to say the dead will only ever make them dead again. Outside the rain arced out; the widowed strands of a web, silver and perpetually falling. I wanted to strip the words from the air, let the piano repeat until grief exhausts itself. I know only a thin and selfish magic.

Beneath every mention of my father is the only truth he has ever wanted for me. He is going to die and my grief will be unremarkable. He is going to die and he told me so. He is going to die and this makes him not dissimilar to the constraints of a song. Every season dies eventually; this is what makes it a season. I ask too much, I return and return to this space before he could die. I hammer shrinking fists against my eyes, insistent, ugly as the fate of the rain.

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Obama Says “Mutts Like Me” In The Mirror Every Morning While I Get Ready for School

Fog holds the mirror captive
one word splits the mirror
soft      a dragonfly’s migration
dares to trouble the water

One word splits the mirror
a fracture no wider than a country
dares to trouble the water
his face wading in its own reflection

A fracture no wider than a country
a silvering hairline      wound in the glass
his face wading in its own reflection
the fracture is not vertical

a silvering hairline      wounds the glass
in this nation even what wants us doesn’t
the fracture is not vertical
it’s a failure in the design near the mouth

even what wants us doesn’t
give me a mutt and I will know family
the mouth      a failure in the design
in the absence of my name

give me a mutt and I will know
each yellowed tooth
in the absence of my name
it is only ever a beast

I step loose from the shower
baptism is a tricky business
a small body skimming sacred
it’s barely a miracle at all

This business of baptism
unbraids me
it’s barely a miracle at all
how much I am like them is

unbraiding me
I am not biracial like he is
how much I am not like them
is a different map altogether

I am not his kind of biracial but
there are constants between us
a different map altogether
question of what is & what swells

A constant between us is desire
reflection is negligible geography
what is & what swells to chaos
I am such a little sin honestly

The negligible geography of
this body alone in the snow
Little sin at school I am called Obama
it is only ever my face

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Senior at __________ College
May 2015

Dear Mr. ___________,

It is with great regret that we must announce that the Committee on Academic Affairs has judged that you be required to withdraw from school for the coming year. This will, of course, mean that you will not graduate with your class. We are sorry to see this inconvenience of your skin come to pass. Unfortunately, your petition regarding your “Inability to sleep due to persistent taste of dirt”, the “dysphoria of lungs, still functioning” and “sudden, violent panic attacks due to images of Black death” are not under the college’s list of approved reasons for absence. We remind you, again, that many seniors have concerns about their futures and still managed to attend and pass all their classes.

Regarding the reapplication process we find it is often best for students to take some time to relax and reassess whether this institution is a good fit for them going forward. While it is unlikely that you have not already considered this we feel it best to remind students who have gone astray. Though we have no official records of your slow erosion it has been evident in your grades over the course of your time here. We hope that you know that we want you to succeed here.

Finally, we must inform you that a copy of this letter and your many failures will be sent to your parents/guardians. Given that you are a senior you will no longer be eligible for financial aid on your courses. Any attempts to petition for funding will be returned unread. We understand that your parents “have sacrificed everything for you” to be here. We understand they will likely “never retire as a result”. We truly regret that your mother’s hands will “ruin themselves with prayer and office work”. It is always hard for us to deliver this news to any family. We hope that you can take this time to have a dialogue with them about how everything was for you, how everything was for nothing.

We look forward to your potential return and wish you the best going forward.

The Committee on Academic Affairs

Julian Randall is a Living Queer Black poet from Chicago. He has received fellowships from Callaloo, BOAAT and the Watering Hole and was the 2015 National College Slam (CUPSI) Best Poet. Julian is the curator of Winter Tangerine Review’s Lineage of Mirrors. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as New York Times Magazine, The Georgia Review ,and Sixth Finch and in the anthologies Portrait in Blues, Nepantla and New Poetry from the Midwest. He is a candidate for his MFA in Poetry at Ole Miss. His first book, Refuse, is the winner of the 2017 Cave Canem Poetry prize and will be published by University of Pittsburgh Press in Fall 2018.