Gary Jackson

Luke Cage Tells It Like It Is

Don’t believe everything you read.
The exploits you find in my comic
are no more probable
than snow in Sunnyvale.
I’m not as black as you dream.
But a body has to make a living.
And I play the part
better than any. I know
the dangers of believing
every shade of black you see.
In this issue
there’s a Mandingo of a man,
dark like olives,
voice as deep as a desert valley
in the dead of night. He smiles
as if he wants to bite your throat,
holds back his teeth
with those bubblegum lips
that he can’t help but lick, leaving
the thinnest film of saliva
on the surface.
He’s slick
and he’s bold
and he’s everything you imagine he should be.
Sometimes, you want to be him,
want to see yourself in the silver glean of his image
and other times you want to be wanted by him.
Crave his brand of desire,
his form of righteousness,
bringing a little black to the world
one motherfucker at a time.
No matter how three-dimensional he seems,
know that behind every jive turkey uttered
there is not a black mouth, but a white one,
one that dictates who he calls Nigger,
to temper the perfect tone of black.
This is the cruelest trick.
Even now, I’m defined by the borders
of my panels, the hue of sienna ink,
an assembly of lines, a rendering of man
splayed across your page.

Gary Jackson
“Luke Cage Tells It Like It Is” is from Missing You, Metropolis (Graywolf Press, 2010).