Naperville, NJ by Cortney Lamar Charleston

“Naperville, NJ”


Where you from, homie?


It seems quite a few bullets can be loaded into 

a single question. Let’s see: I spent a few years 

in the Brookfield Zoo, mainly in the monkey house. 

Spent about nine months inside my mama, of course. 

Eat my cheesesteaks with Cheese Whiz except when

I’m feeling a tad bit bougie – then it’s provolone;

usually just grab the jawn out of a hole in a wall. 

If I pulled out the roots of my teeth, you might 

find they stretch to Mississippi or Nazareth

or Africa, but if I drew you a map I’d put 

Nigeria and Kenya next to one another when 

I know that isn’t right. All the folks I know round 

here drink sweet tea. Hate the traffic on I-285. 

Piss in the subway tunnels with no regard. Die

of heroin overdoses and self-inflicted shots. 

They like mild sauce. Fried chicken. Gizzards.

Wear White Sox snapbacks. Live inside large 

homes, always leave for summer camps 

and college. They hate NY. They love NY.

Vacation on the shore. Don’t believe in the 

American Dream anymore. They hold church 

around the NBA Finals. Don’t make visits to 

church no more, really. Catholic School their 

children because CPS can’t get it together. 

You can say I’m from everywhere they don’t

think I belong, look at you sideways for putting

a little bit of relish, tomato, onion on a hot dog,

have guns drawn, tongues curled into triggers

ready to unload a couple bullets, so to speak.




Cortney Lamar Charleston was raised in the Chicago suburbs (originally South Holland) by two South Siders, but currently lives in Jersey City, NJ. He is an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania and its premier performance poetry collective, The Excelano Project. His poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Rattle, Word Riot, Lunch Ticket, Specter Magazine, Kinfolks Quarterly, Bird’s Thumb, and Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, among others.