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Christian Campbell

Years: 2001, 2002, 2006


Christian Campbell is a writer of Bahamian and Trinidadian heritage.  He studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and received a PhD at Duke.  His poetry and essays have been published widely in journals and anthologies in the Caribbean, the UK, the US and Canada.  An Assistant Professor of English at the University of Toronto, he has received grants and fellowships from Cave Canem, the Arvon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the Fine Arts Work Center, the University of Birmingham and elsewhere.  He is the author of Running the Dusk, which was a finalist for the Cave Canem Prize and the Forward Poetry Prize for the Best First Book in the UK and is the winner of the 2010 Aldeburgh First Collection Prize.  Running the Dusk is his first book.


Lightskinned Id     for Neruda, for The SouthIt so happens my id is red.Check the clues— my lightskinnedparts: underneath my underwear,if you pull the skin taut; on the whitehand side and down my wristwhere the veins branch outlike green pipes; my foot-bottomand almost my eyes up close.  It usedto be my whole self, until I wassix for sure.  But a brownnesstook over.  Started swimmingat nine, how sun and chlorinekissed the night into my skin.There was no turning back.But my id is goodand redboned.  Like slicing opena pear for the surpriseof its flesh.  Look hard: there’s a murmur of bronzein my skin.  I’m a peanut-butter oreo,an apple dipped in molasses;I’m a broad dish of crème brûlée.O the chiaroscuro of my self.Still not freed from Freud, I’m friedon the outside.  What a brown on me!Since the color beneath my color is curried.  It wants to come out, my high yellow id.  Always on the vergeof beige.  It wants me to Ambi my skin,to blossom peach all over.  My id has such a need.  Here it goes with its libido of gold,clashing with the ego, my I, a browner negro,and the superego, who’s a radiant absence of white.  He thinks he’s in charge.It makes me act like I’m better than people, my id.  It wants what it wants.  It makes me lickmelted margarine and steal coppercoins from bums.  Makes mebathe in mango juice.  Pour sourmilk down my ears and signchecks in blood to prove it.On the forms I fill inOther and scribble Yellowon the inside in red ink. I suck the nectar beneath my skin.My id’s pretty niggerish (for a mulatto).  My id is everyone’sIndian uncle.  It’s taking me to Hollywood on an undersongof cream.  My id is colourstruck with itself.  My id is El DeBarge.My id; its job is to keep it light.How my id misses the eighties.If only this amberat heart were enough.  I have to praise it.  I have to lull it with new roses.  Run my fingersalong this sallow riverof desire.  Stuck in the plantation kitchen, black ants dying in an orgy of honey.