I’m not sure why but it’s taken forever for me to write this poem

I hope to remember all the pieces

But I’ve developed a new condition

One that’s come from age/I can no longer take the shit I once did

And there’s a part of my condition that comes from gentrification

And cell phone use

Living amidst tech zombies

And their general fear and hatred of People of color

My condition is called sidewalk rage

Kind of like road rage

But comes when walking down the street and there’s some millennial

Who has just moved into the neighborhood

who thinks its theirs

a little grown ass white girl who in broad daylight feels a dark presence

walking behind her

it’s me/minding my own business and she gets so panicked and paralyzed

she stops walking and holds her purse

with my new condition I yell

If you don’t want to live around Black people, get the fuck out of the neighborhood!

She is shocked.

Or in another scenario:

You see random white women on their phones

Standing in a doorway completely blocking it

Because you know only they exist

And you’re like HELLO, HELLO

Yes, all these years I thought I was still a small town girl and then suddenly

with my sidewalk rage, I’m a bonafide New Yorker

like the ones you’ve seen on bicycles banging on the hood of a taxi cab

that tries to cut them off

My person with sidewalk rage is a character of their own

Where once I was silent

Recently I confronted a man who was blocking my path/crossing the street

He had his head down and almost rammed into me

I sucked my teeth loud and shouted HELLO HELLO

He was so angry I’d confronted him he yelled, “Suck my dick”

I started to yell something profane but I stopped myself

And then I was in the subway/going downstairs and a white man rammed into me

on the phone,

My sidewalk rage kicked in and thought for a second to sneak behind him

And kick him down the stairs,

That’s my sidewalk rage/ I stopped myself.

I don’t know who this person is in me who would never speak up for herself

Was always soft and vulnerable

Who’s been at various times pickpocketed, blasphemed/body slammed,

ransacked, ridiculed

Who now has a voice

Who now lets rage show

Who couldn’t express herself

Has now become all angles and sharp edges.

From Funeral Diva (City Lights Books, 2020). This poem originally appeared in The Brooklyn Rail. Used with the permission of City Lights Books and the author.