iced out chain from the beauty supply by Halsted Indoor Mall

this one spins,
they all glitter
like a crush’s toothy smile.

beauty supply of Black power peace sign afro picks
& a crayola big box of durags to choose from.

beauty supply shelves with sleeves 
of weaves glimmering in the harsh light.

every manner of oil & grease
& spritz & spray for the coaxing 
of curl under comb

who can think of a rat tail without a tear
for the nostalgia or the tenderheaded memory?

a rubber band of any conceivable size.
a barette of two balls clacking hard with every neck roll.
all the ribbons & bows.

the eyebrow lady wielding two ends 
of a thread like the sculptor’s most precious tool.

all the tools for the trade of looking
& you, little boy, get such a precious few.

picking flowers

Grandma’s rosebush
reminiscent of a Vice Lord’s do-rag.
the unfamiliar bloom in Mrs. Bradley’s yard
banging a Gangster Disciple style blue.
the dandelions all over the park putting on
Latin King gold like the Chicano cats
over east before they turn into a puff
of smoke like all us colored boys.

picking dandelions will ruin your hands,
turn their smell into a bitter cologne.

a man carries flowers for 3 reasons:

                       • he is in love
                       • he is in mourning
                       • he is a flower salesman

i’m on the express train passing stops
to a woman. maybe she’s home.
i have a bouquet in my hand,
laid on 1 of my arms like a shotgun.
the color is brilliant, a gang war
wrapped & cut diagonal at the stems.
i am not a flower salesman.
that is the only thing i know.

the valley of its making

for Page

poetry makes nothing happen
—W. H. Auden

the people in the streets
are plucked up like
radishes from dark earth,
heads beat the purplish-red
of ripeness. the women lead
the stupid & brutish to a
future they don’t deserve.
the organized are still
unbearably human, they
still fuck & hurt & harm
& are not actually sorry.
the people still fight
each other too much &
the system not enough
& too often it is not a fight
but a bullet. too many men
want to be in the front
& don’t want to march
anywhere in particular.
some of us have degrees
& noses to look down. 
so many want a version
of old days that never
existed. many are still unwilling
to grow a vocabulary for personhood,
even from the words already in them.
so many will deny they to a sibling
simply because. our people are
messy & messed up & a mess.
nothing about our people is romantic
& it shouldn’t be. our people deserve
poetry without meter. we deserve our
own jagged rhythm & our own uneven
walk toward sun. you make happening happen.
we happen to love. this is our greatest
action. 

Related Poems

The Black Santa

I remember sitting on his bony lap,
fake beard slumping off his face,
his breath reeking sweetly of alcohol,
a scent I didn't yet know at five.
And I didn't know that Santa
was supposed to be fat, white, merry—
not shaky and thin like this
department store Santa who listened
as I reeled off that year's list:
a child's oven I'd burn my fingers on,
a mini record player of gaudy plastic
I'd drag from room to room
by its precarious orange handle,
an Etch-a-Sketch I'd ruin by twisting
its dials too hard—my requests
as solemn as prayer, fervid, fueled
by too many hours of television,
too many commercials filled
with noisy children elated
by the latest game or toy.
I bet none of them
ever sat on the lap of a Santa
who didn't ho-ho-ho in jolly mirth,
whose sunken red eyes peered
out from under his oversized wig
and red velveteen cap, his teeth yellow,
long fingers tinged with yellow.
I did not find it strange
to call this man Santa,
to whisper my childish whispers
into his ear, to pull on his sleeve
to let him know I really deserved
all that I'd asked for. I posed
for an instant photo with him,
a woolen cap over my crooked braids,
mittens sewn to my coat sleeves.
No one could have convinced me
this Santa couldn't slide down
any chimney, though his belly
didn't fill his suit, and his hands
trembled, just a bit, as he lifted
me from his lap. No one could
have told me that a pink-cheeked
pale-skinned Santa was the only Santa
to worship, to beg for toys and candy.
I wouldn't have believed them,
wouldn't have believed anyone
who'd tell me Santa couldn't look
like me: brown eyes, face, skin.

The Discount Mega Mall (in memoriam)

for you
i trace
the
letters
of my
name
in the
air
with my
pinky
like a
gold
necklace
like a
signature
on a
grain
of rice
in a
little jar
eve
the night
before
like a
dusk
like
the end
of things beloved