Born in the South I avoided the traps: liquor
nicotine, cocaine, deferred dreams. “You smart,”
I’d hear them say. “What you got now, a doctor’s
degree. Haha. You done us proud. I knew’nt since
you was a little boy you’d teach. Or preach. The way
you’d stand ‘fore us and read, Little Dr. King.
Now say. . . Here it comes. “Still too good fo’ girls?
People talkin’ bout that white boy you came
back roomin’ with is mighty close, but I tell ’em you
ain’t got no sugar in your tank. No, Lord! Not you!”
So I went North, my “white boy” in tow, and we lived
fine until he caught the long-flu. We knew.
The 90s warned our time was soon, but the test
marked me clean. Clean? Clean—the word I wore
readily shaming him.
But I didn’t leave. He left me. When I held him
the 29th of June, his belly was full of sleeping pills;
I kept him as the paramedic announced the end. “Sorry
for the loss,” came first, and my test a year later brought
“Lucky to be negative.”
“Lucky” and “loss” to reference one life stayed with me
as an oxymoron, and things like surviving
the South and living up North didn’t matter without my
Thomas Goins is a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he is an English Language & Literature major at Fayetteville State University (UNC-FSU). Thomas is an intern at Conjure, a new UNC-FSU digital literary journal that will feature writing and visual art of students and alumni of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the country. The name of the journal comes from the short story collection The Conjure Woman (1899) by African American novelist Charles W. Chesnutt, one of the founders of the college that eventually became Fayetteville State University. The journal, a project of the Department of English at UNC-FSU, is projected to debut in 2016 under co-editors Carole Boston Weatherford and Dr. Maria Orban, a Chesnutt scholar. Thomas has a book review forthcoming in GLINT, the UNC-FSU literary journal.
This poem is not previously published.