Healthy Living, by Jordan Starck

HYPERTENSION

Righteous rage delivered me to this world as I am, a Black man.

My living, here, has always been illegal,

and my fight preordained

   for an always-later time

   when I’ll whisk the blade

   away from its hiding place on my wrist.

Then, with just a quick, outward thrust and a slow, intimate twist,

   a spoonful of justice shall finally permit the blood

      to flow 

                      freely

   with all the force of my beating heart.

Already I can feel it,

      pulsing in my wrist,

      pulsing in my grip

            on my dripping blade.

PHANTOM LIMBS

The good doctor brings me to consciousness in the Optic White sanitarium,

     thinking perhaps that the anesthetics were stronger than they were. 

But I remember the fantastical sensations visited upon me during the procedure.

All the pain, the gripping pain and anxiety, the restriction and tension,

     were whisked away by a spoonful of justice 

          and replaced with the sublime

pulsing of life,

pulsing in my wrist,

pulsing in my grip clasping the vivacity given by my dripping blade.

What a glorious day!

But in my doctor’s broken countenance I’m told it’s only a symptom

   of phantom limbs,

   my nerves stimulating remembrance of courageous intentions

   never moved upon. 

RESPIRATOR

I was smacked into this world, made to cry to clear the airways.

       Then they placed dumps and factories and highways in my lap,

       packs of Marlboros, Swishers, & Slims on my shoulder,

       and drove officers’ knees deep into my neck.

       Now the breeze carries death drifting on the current outside my mask

       as the economy piles on demanding sacrifice,

              intent on stifling my breathless pleas and

                     tying me down to corporate breathing machines.

       The conditions for receiving treatment read in no uncertain

              terms that a respirator will only be provided should

                     I agree to swallow my voice and contestations

                            along with each inhalation.

       They pass me a pen to cement my compliance,

              but I do not forget those first formative memories

              of how I came into this world

                     and learned to breathe

                            with a scream.

And so I lift up my voice and I rise

And I raise up my voice and I rise

And I scream and I scream and I scream

       until heaven rings as a liberty bell,

Trying desperately to bring about a resounding freedom, 

       and a fuller life,

              despite the official caution that I might black out. 


Jordan Starck is a citizen-scholar working to obtain his PhD in Social Psychology & Social Policy from Princeton University. Jordan’s research focuses on race, bias, and interventions for social change, often within the context of education, and it has been supported by the Ford Foundation, Princeton University Center for Human Values, the Overdeck Foundation, Hamid Biglari, and his wonderful advisors. Before arriving at Princeton, Jordan received his BS in Psychology and Professional Educator’s License from Davidson College, after which he spent four years as a K-12 social studies educator, youth program coordinator, and consultant working to mitigate racial bias and empower underrepresented groups.

Suggested citation: Starck, J. 6 January 2021. “Healthy Living.” AGITATE! Bloghttp://agitatejournal.org/healthy-living