NOT KISSING YOU
As inconvenient as being
the mother of breeze—
How she must name
each one and remember it.
Which one stirs empty chip wrapper
saddling the curb near your sandal?
I rub my cheek to be less conscious of air
untidying the hair on my forearms.
But the slight stutter of your smile—
But glow of November dusk across brow
while trolley brakes against rails in distance.
Your lips: a strawberry perfectly split open.
GROWING UP SHELTERED
Saturday Morning with the Cuzzo
I remember us having so much fun you took a dump
behind an oak tree because you didn’t wanna walk home.
It was fall, and you described the leaves’ cold scratch
like it was trying to pick thick pudding from a tight space,
spoon brittling away between fingertips from the weight.
For several days we’d watch the white ritual of it harden.
Let scavengers pick at it like cruel punishment for knowing
we put it there. Six months after, you invited me to my first
cypher. An impromptu group of hoodies and windbreakers
leaning against gymnasium walls like living graffiti. This guy—
Green Eyes was left behind so many times he was twice
the size of the next cat, had a mustache—not peach fuzz,
but the real kind you couldn’t cut with bare clippers.
He was the type’a light skin you wouldn’t call an African
booty scratcher because it was too improbable.
And his bars reflected ‘em too, “Like Bishop from Juice,
you don’t know the ledge, so why I’m fuckin’ witchu? /
Crazy dark skin cat who think he can rap? /
Here’s five bullets for you / BLAP BLAP BLAP BLAP BLAP /
Take that, ay son, pass me his shoes! /”
And the crowd ouuuu’d like they heard “Hit em Up”
for the first time. And he walked the line, stomping
the aluminum of each lyricist’s pride. It got to the point
that nobody had anything to offer him, so he twisted
his snap cap back forward and we all wafted in its silence.
‘Til my cousin spit lines at me: Stuff about how I’d pee the bed,
piss bucket next to mattress, so I’d never miss. Most of it
wasn’t true. I was about to not be ten and knew what he was doing.
High school cliquelessness was not cool—and these guys were—
Green Eyes is irises widening with each bar stymied in front of me.
And I knew I should take it. These cats didn’t even know
my name and I could only rap along to tapes, had no rep,
and went to a different school. Plus they had never seen me
nearly naked or palmed a conversation that changed my life:
“You wanna end up like the brothas down at Peabody’s house, fool?”
That was it, but still. I kept “crack kills” closer than the cereal bowl
on Saturday morning during Dragonball Z. Usually next to you,
and here you were transitioning from youth—Static glider high.
It was shocking. And when you said the line about my dead mama,
I wanted to cry—throat-kick you against pavement and cry.
I wanted to say we’d grow up and always be in touch.
If there was an entire country between us, it would mean nothing.
Your opinion: impossible to get rid of like glitter, except it was useful.
This wasn’t the last Saturday. I’d embrace you first after each child
was born—miss you the way clouds miss rain and plead the sun to evaporate.
I’d eulogize you when you’d die. Break a pact. Tell a congregation
about the time you dropped a deuce behind an oak tree—
the first acknowledgement of it ever between my lips.
Instead, I mentioned it in a terrible freestyle that barely rhymed
to nine dudes who meant nothing to me, but were everything to you.