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Magical Negro #607

I am a big fan of Morgan Parker and have been deep diving into her work on the occasion of her speaking at my MFA program this evening.

I’m very, very much looking forward to her unpacking culture, poetics, and identity as it relates to writing today. She just seems so fucking cool! Funny and smart, the type of person you pass by in a store and want to follow around, knowing what they buy and what they touch, thinking that if you wander similar paths that you’d end up like them. She’s that cool.

In reading a lot of her poetry, ruminating around her book There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, I found one poem that was so striking and seeming to anticipate her new book. Called “Magical Negro #607: Gladys Knight on the 200th Episode of The Jeffersons,” it’s a poem Parker wrote that was featured in Electric Literature and takes a neo-ekphrasis approach to an episode of The Jeffersons, one that aired in February 1983 and included a cameo with Gladys Knight. According to ye olde Wikipedia, the episode is a reflection on an un-embarrassment of riches. It’s a celebration of success. But what does that mean for people who are “moving on up,” for black people, particularly for these characters re-envisioned as modern people? That’s what Parker gets at with this poem.

It’s spectacular. It’s a moment of pause. It’s the ripples in still looking water that reveal depths upon depths upon depths. Please enjoy.

Magical Negro #607: Gladys Knight on the 200th Episode of The Jeffersons
Privilege is asking other people
to look at you. I like everything
in my apartment except me.
What is the point of something
that only does one thing.
I mean I need to buy a toaster.
My life is a kind of reality.
When I get bored, I close the window.
By the way what is a yuppie.
Here I am, two landscapes.
My tattoo artist says I’m a warrior
with pain. I tell her we can manifest
this new moon in six months.
When I’m rich I will still be Black.
You can’t take the girl out of the ghetto
ever. It’s too much to ask to be
satisfied. Of course I sing
through the struggle. My problem is
I’m too glamorous to be seen.
How will I know when I’ve made it.
In the mirror will I have a face.
How long does a good thing last.
Sometimes eating a guilty salad
I become a wife.
Let me be the woman
who takes care of you.
Weezy and George in drapes
and crystal silverware.
By the way predominantly white
means white. I want to be the first
Black woman to live her life
exclusively from the bathtub.
Making toast, enjoying success
despite my cultural and systemic
setbacks. I was raised to be
a nigger you can trust.
I was raised to be better
than my parents. In a small house
with a swamp cooler
I touched myself. I wanted to be
in the white mom’s carpool.
My cheek against something new
and clean. I clean my apartment
when I am afraid of being
the only noise.
Everyone I know is a Black man.
Me I’m a Black man too.
Tragically, I win. It is a joke.
I always require explanation:
Life, Dope. I am so lucky to be you.
When something dies,
I buy a new one.

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