“The pronoun barely holding the person together.” (from Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen: An American Lyric”)

A friend argues that Americans battle between the “historical self” and the “self self.” By this she means you mostly interact as friends with mutual interest and, for the most part, compatible personalities; however, sometimes your historical selves, her white self and your black self, or your white self and her black self, arrive with the full force of your American positioning.

I, Citizen, hold no truths to be self-evident.

But what am I in a world where I do not matter, where I am only matter and that matters not?

And despite everything the body remains.

My body remains, my body’s remains.

But my body is real, visible, seen, acknowledged, American.

My White body, sanctified by its color, after the fact,

the fact the lie that binds me to self-evident truth.

Stand where you are.

You begin to move around in search of the steps it will take before you are thrown back into your own body, back into your own need to be found.

I cannot be found, for I am nothing,

nothing to be found,

always searching for nothing,

the nothing that I am.

Sometimes “I” is supposed to hold what is not there until it is. Then what is comes apart the closer you are to it.

This makes the first person a symbol for something.

The pronoun barely holding the person together.

My threads are bare, weak,

they are me, I.

That tall, proud letter that has to shoulder so much

yet contain so little.

We pour everything into it,

but I is a sieve.

I am a sieve,

information flowing through me, never sticking,

my skin not tar, not black,

my I so White,

a blank you can never fill.

Eternal tabula rasa,


Appetite won’t attach you to anything no matter how depleted you feel.

I am only Appetite,

flesh desire,

ever depleted, ever unfelt, unfeeling,

unattached, unconcerned, ever in quest of my brand of nothingness.

He said, I don’t know what the water wanted. It wanted to show you no one would come.

Life is beyond us,

water flowing ever away.

Who dares come for me?

I am nothing to come for,

so there is no daring in I as an aim.

Risk is commitment,

and if there is nothing to commit to,

there is no risk.

They have not been to prison. They have been imprisoned. The prison is not a place you enter. It is no place.

I am free from prison,


My brothers not so,

they who share my nothingness but have to feel everything.

I get to feel


The state of emergency is also always a state of emergence.

And still I rise.

How can nothing rise?

It is no thing,

that is why it is already risen,

things cannot emerge,

only beings.

Take your I and keep it.

I choose You and We rise together.

Yes, and this is how you are a citizen: Come on. Let it go. Move on.

Only with You.

Bring it all with Us.

Years have passed and so soon we love this world, so soon we are willing to coexist with dust in our eyes.

Let those eyes collect dust. They were never ours.

“The purpose of art,” James Baldwin wrote, “is to lay bare the questions hidden by the answers.” He might have been channeling Dostoyevsky’s statement that “we have all the answers. It is the questions we do not know.”

With whose eyes have I seen the world and learned to accept it as it is?

With whose eyes will we journey forward to see the world as it truly is?

Better yet, as it truly might yet become?

Whose eyes?

Whose I?

I, Citizen?

You, Citizen?


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