What should have been but never was.jpg


Marlin M. Jenkins

Syllabus for American Citizenship

after Amy Sara Carroll

COURSE DESCRIPTION—Explore western individualism but lose yourself, hang your skin on a wire hanger in the coat closet. Speak American. The punch line is: this joke isn’t a joke. Shift the globe so the Western Hemisphere is centered. #NeverForget 9/11 but forget slavery and native displacement/genocide and the problems of capitalism, etc. Pull yourself up by the cops’ boot. Use collective pronouns.

ATTENDANCE POLICY—Swear it. Pledge yourself. Stand in front of a wall of TVs and eat. Buy it all. Study abroad and tell everyone you are American. If you’ve become an expert at disappearing, we know we made you this way.

GRADING— 15% Buy capitalism
                       15% Scapegoating
                       25% Forget. Forget
                       10% Believe in binaries
                       35% Believe history books written by the “winners” of war

CLASSROOM EXPECTATIONS—I look back at adolescent pictures
                                                           and I see how hard I tried
                                                to perform a smile. Failed. But let’s suppose
                                                                       the consistency, at least, is a victory
                                                           in itself. In the current post-
                                                                       racial context my summer
                                                           tan lacks political symbolism.
                                                As do the lips, as does the
                                                           ass, as the back, its curve—
                                                                       how I bend, how I gain
                                                           political power by pledging allegiance
                                                to a greater good that has no investment
                                                                       in me except my blood
                                                           to stripe across bars of white.


another mo(u)rning

on another morning when I wake
            twitching and stuff dozens
                        of sharpened pencils into bag
                                    the heat’s hum through vent
                                                as water down in shower
the morning everything I own
            into the bag the bed
                        the bathtub the books
                                    the bladder sorrow
morning can you hear the neck
            jerk away toward
                        the squeaking throat what’s
more how many killings domestic
            terror police murder dreams
                        sharp hands choking down show
                                     slower drown without water
monday another mourning month
            stiff pre- post- mortem
morning when the wake.

Marlin M. Jenkins was born and raised in Detroit and studied poetry in University of Michigan's MFA program. His writings have been given homes by The Collagist, Four Way Review, The Journal, and Bennington Review, among others. He is an editor for HEArt Online, and you can find him on Twitter @Marlin_Poet. 

JD Thornton