Dear Donald,

By Cortney Lamar CharlestonMarch 9, 2019

Dear Donald,
This piece appears in the upcoming issue of the Los Angeles Review of Books Print Quarterly Journal: The Epistolary Issue, No. 21 

To receive the LARB Quarterly Journal, become a member or purchase at your local bookstore.



Dear Donald,

Because I wish ill toward no one, I hope
this note finds you well enough to read it,
I guess. Truth be told, I've been thinking
about you a lot lately; there is not a day,
not an hour, not a minute that passes like
a cable news ticker I'm not counting off
with your infamously minute hands, and
though elders have always told me a poet 
is entitled to their obsessions, this attraction,
dare I say, is of an entirely different nature.
And we are of different breeds, which I
imagine is phrasing you favor using since
it evokes animal as animal evokes, say,
the African savanna or Central American
rainforests, places where people, too, live
and love on each other and maybe even
laugh, though in expressing this, what
I mean to make clear is that one of us
is the type of person who stares directly
into the sun and the other is the type of
person who stares directly into the sun,
but the misalignment in our thinking,
the disagreement that, perhaps, damns us
to mutual antipathy, is in regards to what
the sun actually is. I say a star and you
say a star and we’re not remotely saying
the same thing; your name’s been on wet
lips all my life, has been tucked into urban
radio braggadocio, talked about on television
and in checkout line tabloids for decades,
you, nearly as ubiquitous in the supple minds
of this country as Jesus is, and who is Jesus
Christ if not a superstar? This is precisely
what you’re considering, I gather, staring
singularly at yourself in any given situation,
the whole world a full-length mirror-mirror
on the border wall transporting you through
time back to the peak of your playboy days,
a certified star reaching for what he shouldn't
but believing it belongs to him inherently,
by sheer audacity. And since you’ve already
said goodbye to science, already fictioned
fact, I’ll spare you the astronomical details,
won’t stoop to lazy labels of stupidity on your
part and play along, as the lasting effects on
these dreaming eyes of mine are functionally
the same no matter what sense of star is used:
in any event, I can’t see clearly. Me, black-
sighted beyond physical ability, my hands
still on the proverbial wheel till they cuff me
or cut me down — it wasn’t so long ago that I
was a car-length behind the life ahead of me
when all the lamps hanging above the highway
went out. And, to my misfortune, that model,
though fast and sporty, had no orange or red-
glowing lights on the rear (budget cuts, I hear),
the make American like both you and I are
constitutionally, but when I say American
and when you say American, I know we
aren’t saying the same thing. One of us is
saying make this country great and the other
is saying make this country great; one of us
means praise me and one of us means save
me, and to that I can only provide cautions
to both of us, honestly, because people that
need saving will eventually make moves
to save themselves. But something tells me
you know that, are banking on it, literally,
somehow. Because you ain’t slick, Donny ―
and my peoples don’t slip. They don’t sleep.
They can’t sleep. Not with the sun still out.



Cortney Lamar Charleston is the author of Telepathologies. Winner of a Pushcart Prize, his poems have appeared in POETRYThe American Poetry ReviewNew England Review, AGNI, Grantaand elsewhere. He serves as a poetry editor at The Rumpus.

LARB Contributor

Cortney Lamar Charleston is the author of Telepathologies, selected by D. A. Powell for the 2016 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. He was awarded a 2017 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and he has also received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation Literary Festival and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Winner of a Pushcart Prize, his poems have appeared in POETRYThe American Poetry ReviewNew England Review, AGNIGrantaand elsewhere. He serves as a poetry editor at The Rumpus.


LARB Staff Recommendations

Did you know LARB is a reader-supported nonprofit?

LARB publishes daily without a paywall as part of our mission to make rigorous, incisive, and engaging writing on every aspect of literature, culture, and the arts freely accessible to the public. Help us continue this work with your tax-deductible donation today!