McKenzie Chinn

the time of your life                                                                                                  

on a quiet day in my old age, if i get there, i’ll look back to right now and say that was the time i lived in a house with five strangers and drank every day and danced at parties and talked loudly and laughed with insistence

and fell asleep most nights at 4am with all my clothes and makeup still on.

i’ll say that was the time i almost had that threesome and wish i would’ve had that threesome

just to know what a threesome is like

and to be able to say that was the time i had that threesome.

i’ll say it was the time i left my husband. i’ll say it was the time i took up with another and was happy until he broke my heart so sweetly,

and i’d rather he’dve been mean about it because at least then i’d have my anger.

i’ll say that was a confusing time.

i’ll say that was the time i lost my office job and couldn’t stand to go get another one, to carefully assemble yet another in a parade of office personas

i squeeze myself into like a pair of spanx, like a costume i put on as if Halloween was a 9 to 5. i’ll say offices were then and are now unholy, unnatural places.

i’ll say it was the time i decided, instead, to play a game of chicken with my bank account and cross my fingers that my art would build a bridge before i reached cliff’s edge.

i’ll say that was the time cops were still killing black people for selling loose cigarettes and it was getting hard to remember all the hashtags, all the names of the dead,

and we were still marching in the streets but nothing was changing, so we walked around traumatized until we threw the party

and called the party The Black Joy Party

and for a few hours we defied our genocide by daring to be happy.

and i’ll say it was the time i felt most alone.

i’ll say it was the time i thought of walking into the lake, stones in my pockets, was the time i leaned hard into a riptide sadness, ready to be swept in,

but that it was also the time i figured out that it is all a kind of sweeping and that sometimes you sweep, sometimes you are swept, and both are needed; both are okay.

i’ll say that was the time when the only occupation i claimed was artist, and i took my unemployment as if it was reparations,

as if my country loved artists

the way it loves hedge fund managers and private prisons.

i’ll say it was the time i drove all the time too fast on purpose, every day whipping around the bends of Lake Shore Drive, windows down, music disrespectfully loud

to mute the cries of my plaintive heart,

and on a quiet day in my old age, i’ll say sometimes, somehow, it worked.

renaissance blk

we perennial // we rage through trumpets // we sound // we Jericho razor wire walls // we convene make whole stadiums sway sing unison // whole people on the come up // we combustible // we loudspeaker stomp streets halt highways filibuster black fridays mom the corners // we occupy // we galvanized like some new steel // some superman steel if superman was black and Clark Kent rocked a fitted and fresh kicks along with those corny-ass glasses // we hoody-up proud // we tear down Confederacies // we big earring bangle bracelet juke basement ballrooms // we respectability politic opposite // we slang & slur // we speak in encryption no fux given for diction // we language ourselves into existence // we laurel our own // motion picture academy blasphemy // we win within us not without us // no inclusion  necessary // we tv takeover televise revolution // we show-run we run shit // we Shonda // we marvel // we blackly excellent // not a tenth but the whole // not half but whole // say whole // say whole // say only way we get free is if us all get free // we unison // we renaissance // we culture // we now // we seed in soft ground in march // we perennial // we like that field of flowers in The Color Purple // we out in multitudes faces lifted toward the sun // we glory glory glory // god’s pissed but we bout to be noticed // america, girl, you on notice // we here // say we here // say we here


McKenzie’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The FemSundog LitRogue Agent Journal, and Voicemail Poems. She has performed her poetry at Constellation Chicago, The Inconvenience’s The Fly Honey Show, and with the city’s long-running, curated show-case Salonathon. An actor and Leonore Annenberg Artist Fellow, she wrote, produced, and appears in the independent feature film Olympia, currently in post-production. She lives in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and sings hip-hop to her cat Wifi who listens indifferently.

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