Cortney Lamar Charleston

Sonic & Knuckles (1994)


for C. Latrell


Sonic is a hedgehog: a blur, a ball of the bluest energy.
Knuckles is an echidna: he’s a blood-red climber of rocks.
I’m the first born, like a ghost of my father in childhood.
He’s the second born, blessed with my mother’s mouth.

Knuckles is the echidna, a blood-red climber of rocks;
Sonic is known for speed—he’s my proto-protagonist,
but am I for the boy blessed with my mother’s mouth?
He, more likely than me, moves towards his knuckles.

Correction: my parents were my real proto-protagonists.
I quickly learned the game, traded obedience for freedom
and I wonder if that pushed him towards his knuckles:
before Shadow the Hedgehog, the kid liked the echidna.

But because I learned how to game obedience for freedom,
I know a shadow, to its sadness, can’t achieve autonomy;
living in shadow has him punching walls like an echidna,
but recall Knuckles wasn’t a real villain, just an anti-Sonic.

Is my shadow the reason he couldn’t achieve autonomy?
When folks say we favor, are they calling him a shadow?
Trust me, he’s not a bad seed, just acting like an anti-Sonic
and as I’m known by my speed to straight-lace, we knuckle.

Being told we favor must feel like getting called a shadow,
like getting pressured to shape your life in another’s image:
the boy known by his speed to straight-lace. So we knuckle,
but we skip out on fists: they’re proxied by clashing pixels.

To relieve pressure, I say shape your life in another image,
but struggle when it’s not an image I think he should own,
and that fight can never be proxied by a clashing of pixels,
so we glitch, our laughter frozen in 16-bits. We hit reset.

I watch him struggle with what images he should disown;
in this way, I become a ghost of my father in fatherhood.
Blood is glitch-prone, so sometimes our eyes will be reset:
why looking through my feelings, Sonic’s energy is red.

Cortney Lamar Charleston is a Cave Canem fellow and author of Telepathologies, selected by D.A. Powell for the 2016 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Poetry, New England Review, Gulf Coast, TriQuarterly, River Styx and elsewhere.