I come from the cracked hands of men who used the smoldering ends of blunts to blow shotguns, men who arranged their lives around the mystery of the moon breaking a street corner in half. I come from "Swann Road" written in a child's slanted block letters across a playground fence, the orange globe with black stripes in Bishop's left hand, untethered and rolling to the sideline, a crowd openmouthed, waiting to see the end of the sweetest crossover in a Virginia state pen. I come from Friday night's humid and musty air, Junk Yard Band cranking in a stolen Bonneville, a tilted bottle of Wild Irish Rose against my lips and King Hedley's secret written in the lines of my palm. I come from beneath a cloud of white smoke, a lit pipe and the way glass heats rocks into a piece of heaven, from the weight of nothing in my palm, a bullet in an unfired snub-nosed revolver. And every day the small muscles in my finger threaten to pull a trigger, slight and curved like my woman's eyelashes.
For the City that Nearly Broke Me
A woman tattoos Malik’s name above
her breast & talks about the conspiracy
to destroy blacks. This is all a fancy way
to say that someone kirked out, emptied
five or six or seven shots into a still warm body.
No indictment follows Malik’s death,
follows smoke running from a fired pistol.
An old quarrel: crimson against concrete
& the officer’s gun still smoking.
Someone says the people need to stand up,
that the system’s a glass house falling on only
a few heads. This & the stop snitching ads
are the conundrum and damn all that blood.
All those closed eyes imagining Malik’s
killer forever coffled to a series of cells,
& you almost believe them, you do, except
the cognac in your hand is an old habit,
a toast to friends buried before the daybreak
of their old age. You know the truth
of the talking, of the quarrels & how
history lets the blamed go blameless for
the blood that flows black in the street;
you imagine there is a riot going on,
& someone is tossing a trash can through
Sal’s window calling that revolution,
while behind us cell doors keep clanking closed,
& Malik’s casket door clanks closed,
& the bodies that roll off the block
& into the prisons and into the ground,
keep rolling, & no one will admit
that this is the way America strangles itself.