Cameron Barnett

My love mentions that people see stars bestfrom the corners of their eyes, that conescatch color in the centers, but it’s the rodson the outsides that fetch the dimmest portionsof the visible spectrum—and I am forcedto reconcile with the fact that something so roundas vision still pushes people into cornerslike those I drive by in the hood, and wonder:if spacetime had bent me a different pathI could be a man or a mural on some concretepatch like these, and that either way I’d bepainted away eventually. I’m forced to considera future son, half white, and whether or notto ever call him my nigga; that if I ever did,something somewhere between us might breakjagged forever, push us to the other sidesof rooms, a hypotenuse of hypotheticalsalways between us. I’m forced to considermy child’s heart like a comma, caught up in clauses,murmuring a steady syntax the way a ghostdrags its lips over everything unspokencaught in its chest, a soul full of expectationsnever met; I’m reconciling how black and whitethe edges of most things are, the steady strainof looking into every corner of the sky and neverfinding a black constellation—already knowingthe brilliance of stars is a billion yearsworth of old news; to reconcile with my friendconfessing he never expected to make it pasteighteen, and I don’t know what’s harder to believe:his confession or the doctorate diploma he thumbson the corner of his thirties—to reconcile with the elderly who hear my poemsand come to me, stumbling their way towardsI don’t see color—and I can’t tell if it’s glaucomaor Glaucon sitting in the center of their lenses,spinning the ring of Gyges on his finger; andtheir mouths like a heart pulsing so petulantlyI take their hand to my chest, tap out a sweet staccato:Do you see me? Shut your eyes—I am either sideof that which blinds you.

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Carol Brown Award winner Cameron Barnett, emerging artist

Cameron Barnett is the author of The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water (Autumn House Press) which was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. He earned his MFA from the University of Pittsburgh and teaches middle school English. He is the recipient of the 2019 Carol R. Brown Creative Achievement Award for Emerging Artist. Cameron’s work explores the complexity of race and the body for a black man in today’s America, more of which can be found at

159 Winter/Spring 2021

Evanston, Illinois

Northwestern University

Poetry Editor
Daniel Fliegel

Managing Editor
Joshua Bohnsack

Assistant Managing Editor
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

TriQuarterly is the literary magazine of Northwestern University. It is edited by students in the Litowitz MFA+MA Graduate Creative Writing Program and the MFA in Prose and Poetry in the School of Professional Studies. Alumni of these programs and other readers also serve as editorial staff. Available around the world, TriQuarterly has remained "an international journal of writing, art, and cultural inquiry. TQ has created an online archive of its own history by publishing individual works from its past, sometimes with new accompanying comments by the writers. The Northwestern University Library has digitized the entire history of the journal.

As a web journal, TQ has the capacity to add audio, video, and a variety of new and frequently uploaded content to supplement its schedule of publishing issues twice a year. 

In 1958, the "tri-quarterly" was so named because its original form as a student magazine was published in each of the three quarters of Northwestern's academic year, and not in the fourth quarter, summer. This name has been belied at times by the magazine's real publishing schedule, but now TQ has altered the tradition quite deliberately to one of semi-annual publishing of discrete issues and frequent updating with new reviews, interviews, blog posts, and excerpts from longer works. And for the first time, new writing published in this journal can be read everywhere there is web access.

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