Charnell Peters

Charnell Peters is a hoosier living in Ohio for graduate school. Her work has appeared in Puerto Del Sol‘s Black Voices Series, Relief JournalCleaver MagazineFiction Southeast, and Altarwork, among other places. She enjoys writing about race, feminism, and reconciliation.

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Flatline

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dead brown bodies

are only new

if you don’t live in one

if you don’t press your ear

against your sister’s mouth

when she pulls you close

if you didn’t learn CPR

your first day on the playground

if you don’t feel yourself flatlining

when your brothers walk to a party

and you’re praying for daylight

and extravagant emergencies

all around the city so the old people

stick themselves to 1989 televisions

and forget spying out the windows

for the brown boys to come by

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Your Body for the Porcelain Baby

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hold her between the rolls

of where your babies used to live

cradle her between your breasts

let her lounge in your thigh creases

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if the good Lord’s willing

the porcelain baby won’t rise

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cushion her with the crooks

of your fattest fingers

don’t chip the creamy porcelain

of her white mountain cheeks

and don’t crack her finger figures

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stand on your tip toes

tip toe round her crib

tip toe round where she sleeps

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And the creek don’t rise

for the porcelain baby

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so don’t hike up your skirt

if it rains cover her up

with your dry cracked hair

use your wide hips

to protect the white baby

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talk down to the creek

and walk down to the creek

while you shush the baby

tell her all her glass skin still there

tell her the creek won’t rise

can’t rise don’t rise for her

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10:30 Service

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the punchline is a lantern

that a man forgot to light

and the train that peeled apart

another in a grapes of wrath truck

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it’s a pastor story

that’s supposed to make you ponder

who am I

the forgetful man?

the dead one?

I am the train

one I know in my dreams

a black storm that wakes me

it wails at the intersections

before and after my room

coughing up coal hymns

begging everyone away

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