Poems and Texts

excerpt from “Metropolis, a Prologue” by Justin Allen

Metropolis, a Prologue

When we abandoned the demonym “American” for the more specific “Stateser,” we did so to make sense of a convoluted national identity. We imagined a more precise name, and one commiserate in phonetics with a national self-image of agility, efficiency, and pluck. We imagined something sporty and lean, something that suggested direction and speed. But more so, we wanted to acknowledge the many different states in which we each resided, scattered every which way, here and there, conflicted by the hierarchical divisions colonialism has produced. With this new name, we attempted to grapple with the presumption inherent to the concept of the singular nation state, a presumption of which many of us remained dubious, and by which many of us remained endlessly confused: that we, somehow, by some logic, were all supposed to represent one body.

One perk of Reparations: infrastructure. We file back cities we’ve been pushed out of, renovating, repopulating, building businesses protected against the overcast of franchises and corporations with taxes and zoning laws. Our cities shimmer and hum, real symbols of something great, though it’s too early to say what exactly.

As new buildings go up, regulations limit size, style, and color to counter the aesthetic disasters of the Gentrification Era. Our new apartments fit with the original architecture of these cities, updated where necessary to serve contemporary needs.

Photo: Texas Isaiah Horatio-Valenzuela

Justin Allen

Justin Allen is a writer and performer from Northern Virginia. He has written for Mosaic Literary Magazine, The Studio Museum in Harlem’s Studio Blog, Lambda Literary, and ARTS.BLACK among others. Since 2015 he has been performing in artist niv Acosta’s episodic work DISCOTROPIC for such occasions as PS122’s COIL live performance festival in New York City and Tanz Im August performance festival in Berlin, Germany. In May of 2016 he presented at the International James Baldwin Conference at the American University of Paris. He lives in New York City.

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