October 30, 2017

Contributor’s Marginalia: Adrienne Su on “Sonic & Knuckles (1994)” by Cortney Lamar Charleston



“Sonic is known for speed—he’s my proto-protagonist…
Correction: my parents were my real proto-protagonists.
I quickly learned the game, traded obedience for freedom…”


A parent of teens, I cannot credibly comment on Sonic & Knuckles.
My references are dated, even retro: Heckle & Jeckle, early Tom & Jerry.
The children remind me: Don’t even try to invoke the hedgehog —
you’ll sound like an old person trying to pass as young.

Some of my references are less dated than retro, like early Ben & Jerry’s,
which I associate with the late 1980s and Harvard Yard,
where I felt like an old person despite being passionate and young,
a native Southerner shivering in Massachusetts.

I also associate with the late 1980s the Harvard seminars
on Divinity Ave., where I studied my proto-protagonists,
non-native sojourners who might have gone to Massachusetts
where they wouldn’t have to trade obedience for freedom

but—as students and security for their proto-protagonists—
accepted the geography of academe, which sent them south.
In the end they didn’t have to trade obedience for freedom.
They adopted and were adopted by the red, white, and blue.

Eventually the geography of academe sent me from my South,
but Sonic, Knuckles, Tom, Jerry, Ben, and Jerry now occur everywhere.
No one has co-opted the red, white, and blue,
but the flag’s been taking unexpected forms, some disturbingly retro.

Although Sonic, Knuckles, Tom, Jerry, Ben, and Jerry now occur everywhere,
the culture we’ve built around them threatens to splinter,
its flag taking unexpected forms, some disturbingly retro.
If I’m lucky, I’m halfway (and then some) between my past and future,

even as the culture that houses them threatens to splinter.
The children remind me not to invoke the hedgehog.
If they’re lucky, the future won’t become the past. Imagine, I tell them,
your grandparents, reaching a continent long before Sonic & Knuckles.

Adrienne Su is the author, most recently, of Living Quarters (Manic D Press, 2015). Recipient of an NEA fellowship, she teaches at Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Poems from her current manuscript-in-progress have appeared or are forthcoming in Gargoyle, A Gathering of the Tribes, New England Review, The New Yorker, Poetry, and Prairie Schooner.

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