I Am

by Terrell Woolfolk-Carter

I think so therefore I am. Or am I though? Am I a ghost of a man who exists only through the eyes of others

who hate and despise me, who judge me without knowing me, so what they see is what they want me to be,

therefore I am.

Or am I though?

“Stay in your place boy and let the lessons of a tortured past become lost in the bling, in the boom-bap of southern trap and the twerking of self-respect.

Keep clapping those guns like ass cheeks boy,

and you’ll forever have a place.”

I’ve been defined, given direction, and provided with my very own space, therefore I am.

Or am I though?

Foreign names stitched through linen clothes cling loosely to my body and give me shape.

Blood of my brothers taint stones embedded in chains that hang heavy around my neck.

I live a life of consumption that gives me substance because I desperately want to be seen,

but behind the scenes vocal chords tremble with shouts unheard, my eyes sting from tears that remain hidden

to the naked eye; because who I really am is invisible.

So I dance a little jig; I’m a star in this live minstrel show: a buffoon, black face in black face,

a caricature of who I really am. I’ve conformed, I’m lost, I’ve disappeared in front of my own eyes

like a wisp of black smoke. For centuries I’ve walked this land like the emperor with no clothes,

cloaking myself with invisible threads of gold, I’m shining, or am I just a peacock with the feathers of a pigeon?

I think so therefore I am.

Naw I don’t think so therefore I can’t be,

no wonder no one can see me.

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