The Poetry Cops

PAPO: You have to forget what you heard, even if you were out there when it happened.

COPS: But how to stay true to what you see?

PAPO: I wrote what I saw in the face of what I remember.

COPS: Well, who is the you?

PAPO: The you is you. Us, we, all of them, and the others. That’s you.

COPS: Let’s continue.

PAPO: That’s all. I’m just trying to build.

COPS: Let’s talk about Voice.

PAPO: Okay. Voice. On any Saturday night you could find yourself running against your voice. The voice that yells Five-O Teddy-Up is about to jump. That voice that suggests you don’t go down a certain block, that you stay away from that blond streak, that you go home early, that at any moment your screams can go dry.

COPS: What happens when Voice comes to stay?

PAPO: Like Baraka used to say, I can see something in the way of ourselves.

COPS: That sounds like Brother Lo.

PAPO: You don’t know patience until you stand on the corner when shit is slow. Brother Lo was on some planet rock shit. He made sure that we enlisted in the fight for freedom—not now, but right now.

In the Face of What You Remember

You remember, that was the summer of Up Rock, quarter water,
         speed knots, pillow bags, two-for-five, Jesus pieces, and
         Bambú. The Willie Bobo was turned up to ten, and some
         would’ve said that a science was dropped on our summer.

The summer that was lit with whispers of wild style, Rock
        Steady battles & white party plates made all kinds of
        moons on the playground foam.

The summer the Burner was used to eat & mandate, inspired
       Sunday sermons, became a literary influence with humming
       climaxes, a bribable tale, a dub tied to a string &
       squashing beef wasn’t an option.

The summer of fresh shrills, and a future somersaulting off a
       monkey bar; a future placing bets that all us old heads,
       desperate to find a new cool, could not flip pure.

That was the summer that our grills dropped to below freezing.

Back then, Palo Viejo was thermal & therapy, bones were
       smoked in the cut, and you had to expect jungle gym giggle
       to be accompanied by buckshot.

That was the summer Charlie Chase hijacked megawatts from
       Rosa’s kitchenette, found gems in a milk crate, spun his one
       & twos below rims that still vibrated with undocumented

The same summer we became pundits & philosophers, poets
       & pushers; that we all tried to fly, but only one of us

The summer that Papu turned up to extra status. The only one in
       the crew who had reduced fame’s window by a fifth when
       the camera panned his Cazal-laced Up Rock in the Roxy
       scene of Beat Street.

One could say we gave the Block gasp & gossip, body & bag,
       a folktale worth its morphology.

That was the season we had reason to rock capes & wings,
       chains & rings, some of us flew Higher than most, and
       tricks were hardly ever pulled from a hat; all that, & a bag
       of BBQ Bon Tons was enough for at least one of us to say,

I’m straight.

That’s My Heart Right There

We used to say,
That’s my heart right there.

As if to say,
Don’t mess with her right there.

As if, don’t even play,
That’s a part of me right there.

In other words, okay okay,
That’s the start of me right there.

As if, come that day,
That’s the end of me right there.

As if, push come to shove,
I would fend for her right there.

As if, come what may,
I would lie for her right there.

As if, come love to pay,
I would die for that right there.

You Lose Something Every Day

It was Dre who once said,
You lose something every day

Your mind on the way to the store
The floor on the way to your mind
Your mind on your way to the clinic
The clinic on the way to one more

The mad in the way of your kind
The lyrics to your favorite song
The cure on the way to the camp
The finish on your way to the line

Your nickel in the way of a dime
The short to your favorite long
The loss on the way to the find
The skin that was yours to bare

The crown that was yours to wear
The floor you were forced to clean
The game that was yours to fair
The face you were pushed to mean

It was Dre who once said,
You lose something every day