Two Poems

by Marlin M. Jenkins

self-portrait as cape cod ghost

i am very practiced in visitation, in which i am the one visiting; i pass a sign for ghost tours, which don’t interest me—what is a ghost tour to the already ethereal?

white tourists refuse to move as to share the sidewalk and i specify white because all of them are

i know i’m a tourist here, too, more or less, but ghosts, permeable as we may be, know how to watch where we’re going, or at least put in the effort

down the one main street i make my way through and past bodies, flinch at doors dropped in front of me

no one here summoned me and yet here i am to wander the streets alone, to walk a gay haven lined with pride flags but no welcome for the body of a queer black boy

a black ghost—often invisible, often a cause of fear

most of my metaphors are a form of coping

most of my coping is a form of magic—no one offers to be my assistant, everyone mistakes the waving black curtain for a trick of the light, I transmute my trauma into a scroll and drop it in a bottle in the Atlantic

the bottle is opaque but the scroll translucent

the bottle washes all the way home and waits in my own mailbox for me to return

i’m the most boring kind of ghost—can’t walk through walls, can’t fly, can’t cheat death but instead death cheats me and calls it a history lesson

there are only two people of color at the concert and the metaphor writes itself because we sit all the way in the back before realizing we’re alone

the guitarist plays the guitar like a violin and uses a loop petal

i get lost on the way back but only a little, find a monument to orient me

the bnb room is upstairs, small but there are two black people in it, neither family nor lovers, and i’m no good with numbers but i know at least when i’m not impossibly outnumbered and lonely

in some towns, they’re coating the streets white so they don’t absorb the sun’s heat, reducing temperatures—better for the environment; when I leave this town it will be easier for it to achieve homeostasis

the stairs are too steep—

i walk up to the top room—

bodies down the streets