The Love Song of Percy Sledgehammer

Cortney Lamar Charleston

When a man loves a woman, can't keep his mind on nothing but
some money: now ain't that some shit, boo? That, or a brother might

be thinking my baby got ass for years but knows by soul all that ass
ain't free, and yet it can't be bought or owned either, not by no boy-

person. Plus the way they say our love is set up looks like a setup to
me, a jig, just another means to justify falling short of full protection

under the law when it all falls down on the back of my neck like a boot
made of jurisprudence and then you’re forced to cry over me—a fool

who wasn’t about anything half the time, wasn’t half as smart as he
believed he was most days. Ah, to be broke and broken and black,

to be male and machete and marriage material in your eyes despite
my jagged edges, all these angles I learned specifically so nobody

could touch me and not bleed. Don't mind that I'm a bit dull, dopey,
the antithesis of a dope dealer: am I still not potentially dangerous

behind closed doors on account of what's in my pants and what's in
yours? Is the tenor of my voice not that of a man who knows how to

make folks feel things with their whole bodies, even bad things? I try
to be better than that, to do better, because even if I don't know right

exactly I do know what's not right or not really even close, do you get
what I'm getting at, my love? I’m saying that I don't especially believe

in their silly definition of respectable, but I do believe in respect as if
Aretha Franklin was my mama and schooled me so. I’m saying that

I don't wonder why they call you bitch because I was in the room with
them before I came to yours needing to detox. I’m saying that I think

I love you right but can never be certain being what I am. These hands
have only ever segued into sledgehammers and you know I possess

the voice of a steel-driving man; like a mockingbird, inflect the pain
so pretty and perfect: the makings of a smash hit are in me at all times.