When 213b finally opens in a crack of yellow linoleum, Garrett comes out with the left side of his afro as flat as the tire that used to be on his mom’s car & the stuck snick of the cheap door locking behind him sounds exactly like someone trying to light a smoke with an empty lighter. Carriage House East, where menthols cough like a window slamming shut & outside that window, somebody’s radio is already popping static. What’s left of the moon is popping white on blue. That’s when we stamp past the squat HUD brick toward school in the dark: shadow of the green trash can gang signed with misspellings, a mimeograph of Mickey Mouse flipping Iran the bird in the landlord’s lit window. We made the same middle-finger motion to the school bus before ignoring our bus stop & kept walking neighborhood- style—right hands skimming from chest down to waist then behind the back like a bad breast-stroker cupping air. Cue the sirens snagging the matted air like a cheap pick. Cue the smoker’s cough of early-morning walks to school. We strutted a backward lean like every one of the unconcerned streetlamps alternating between our side of the street & over there—in front of the fenced-in porches missing slats like teeth in a punched smile where Garrett’s cousin leaned against the side of one of the front buildings. She put two-fingered guns to her temples when she saw us: red patch of smoker’s skin around her mouth like a raw sun rising.
—after “Trumpet,” Jean-Michel Basquiat
the broken sprawl & crawl
of Basquiat’s paints, the thin cleft
of villainous pigments wrapping
each frame like the syntax
in somebody else’s relaxed
explanation of lateness: what had
happened was. Below blackened
crowns, below words crossed out
to remind of what is underneath:
potholes, ashy elbows, & breath
that, in the cold, comes out in red light
& complaint shapes— 3 lines
from the horn’s mouth
in the habit of tardy remunerations.
All of that 3-triggered agitation,
all that angry-fingered fruition
like Indianapolis’s 3-skyscrapered smile
when the sun goes down & even
the colors themselves start talking
in the same suspicious idiom
as a brass instrument—
thin throat like a fist,
flat declinations of pastors
& teachers at Christmas in the inner city.
Shoulders back & heads up when
playing in holiday choir of hungry
paints, chins covered
in red scribbles in all of the songs.