What Got You So Lonely, Baby?
Lemme guess. A Black man broke your heart. Even better, he claimed you first by making you in his image. Then you let him in a second time when you were old enough to know better, and he broke it again. He broke it clean. You’ve been thinking of him, or should I say–noticing when you are thinking of him; you always thinking of him. Everywhere you go, there he is. Mystery man. The enigma from Cook County who built toys from the junk he found in the street playing with his brothers and sisters. He thought things would get better. They did. But you came along, you messed with the story. But he made it sound like it was destined to happen. Like your grandma was looking for a man to come get her daughter knocked up and run off so she would have to raise you. That’s the story he told. That’s the story he thinks he told. He’s a romantic. But he forgot about the actual book. That protagonists are born in the eyes of the author. Your ma was right. He read a book and believed he was in it. You do it, too. Absorbing the strain of living multiple narratives, the loops and bounds of a well-lit story, its artful metaphysics. Under different circumstances your old man would’ve made a helluva writer. He likes crime stories best. The answers always get found if you keep up with the page. So he decided this was to be your destiny, that you’d be alone. Now you’re the writer trying to figure out what you inherited from a pretty Black man who lives only for his own story.
Nikki Wallschlaeger’s work has been featured in The Nation, Brick, American Poetry Review, Witness, POETRY, and others. She is the author of the full-length collections Houses (Horseless Press 2015) and Crawlspace (Bloof 2017) as well as the graphic book I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel (2019) also from Bloof Books. She tweets at @nikkimwalls