Mckendy Fils-Aimé

The all white congregation discusses race while I take selfies

And perhaps it is rude to fixate on myself.
After all they did invite me here to speak,
but at the church I watch the microphone sail by
again, and fill with a voice that is not mine

despite my raised hand and how it has not wavered
in the passing minutes. Everyone wants to talk
about dead black boys without actually talking
about dead black boys, or they want to thank me
for my contributions to music and sports.

Who needs progress when you’ve paid for
good dark meat, when you’ve token’d the token?

I have to believe that this is necessary,
that someone will benefit from the check
taping my mouth shut and they will
go out into the world and practice pressing
reason–like a blade–against the throat
of the casual racist.

But it is also necessary to practice self-love
and sometimes that means taking a selfie.

To find the right angle for my picture, I sink
into the space between the pews
until the solar eclipse of me mingles with
the shadows and I can pretend that I have
a say in this. And by this, I mean the terms
of my own visibility.

I am a dark hologram flickering in a white hand,
always on the wrong side of the light, dragged
in and out of sight at someone else’s leisure.
My skin: a peace treaty between what I’ve learned
about being a good house guest, my own quiet nature
and the loudest voices in the room.

And isn’t that conversation sometimes;
all posturing and no work?

Before the hour is through someone will call
me exotic. Another will toss around
the word black like a game of telephone
until someone else spills the word nigger
onto the floor and everyone gawks
at their own reflection in the mess
as if they didn’t have a hand in tipping the jar.

Mckendy Fils-Aimé is a New England based Haitian-American poet and educator. He has been an artist in residence for MassLEAP as well as the Art Alliance of Northern New Hampshire. Mckendy is a Callaloo Creative Writing Fellow whose work has appeared in Boxcar Poetry Review, The Collagist, The Journal, Callaloo, and elsewhere.