Deonte Osayande is a former track and field sprinter turned writer from Detroit, Mi. His essays and poems have won many awards and have been published in numerous publications. He has a chapbook, Cover the Sky With Crows, with ELJ Publications and his first full collection of poetry, Class, will be out with Urban Farmhouse Press in 2017.

 

     Gradual Transformations

Deonte Osayande

 

My name becomes a disguise, makes

many transformations

out of me. To some it says immigrant, others

 

say ghetto, most can't pronounce it. Instead

they say crow, spade, monkey, tar baby, jungle

bunny. My first track coach pairs me against Marcel, dog

 

eat dog. Bark versus bite. He be beagle, I remain

rabid unless around her. She is the black girl, my girlfriend

the tortoise. I'm her hare, growing, following

 

her movements in every race. She doesn't lose, just

finishes significantly later than everyone else. Someone asks

if the black girl knows she has already been beaten, as if

 

the black girl hasn't always survived beatings. Weeks later

the two of you go skating around the corner from her home

in the suburbs. Her neighbor's dog gets loose and she runs

 

half a block away faster than you've ever seen. After this

burst of speed you think back to how she made the crowd

wait and watch at the track meet. Years later Marcel is in the casino

 

waving when he sees you. What are the odds? You can tell

he doesn't remember anything he said to you in the past. You are still

running. The black girl is still running. He is still running.

 

Dinner Discussions

Deonte Osayande

 

My aquarium breathed family enjoys

cooking crab legs. I crawl into my corner

of the house during many gatherings, eating lemons

 

like apples, familiar with the taste of bitterness. My teeth

sizzle every time although I don't flinch

as if my skin was thick. I know how my words can be enough

 

to produce gunfire. Another day, another grand jury, another

indictment. It doesn't even come up in dinner discussions

much anymore. The conversation shifts, some cousins

 

start fishing for compliments. I reel back my insecurities,

thankful that I'm a rabbit's foot. Not currently facing

police who would show up here because they were called, called

 

because they aren't here for us.  Everywhere

inside the fish tank there are reflections

looking ready to consume who they mirror.

 

Demons

Deonte Osayande

 

I don't often dance, music is my guilty

pleasure. What I listen to is the key

to the memories I lock out, demons yet to be

 

exorcised. Somewhere there's a household

built with Jenga blocks. There is a marriage

held up by a support beam of twigs. There's a wife

 

who I haven't spoken to in years, keeping me

behind a lock and key her husband can never open. I'm the skeleton

in their basement closet and all because I didn't know

 

about him doesn't mean I'm innocent. I get having

demons. Somewhere there's a house

full of people I haven't talked to in years.

 

In a way I am still there, haunting them. It's not

what I mean to do. I try to move on from it but when I look

down at my feet, there are so many locks.

 

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