Underground King

for Ermias Asghedom (Nipsey Hussle)

the streetlights still weep / a
marathon of clouds hold firm / the agony
continues / we’re all an assembly of
sad / I’ve been writing dismal testimony
since before the last person I love
was gunned down / been trying
to write something about happy
since before my great-aunt’s knees
decided to hang themselves / there are more
funerals to be had / I tell the sky this
and hope the sun shows because all this
bleakness might move me to throw
it into a well / do you know

what it is to make a wish knowing
it’s a waste since before you even made it /
there was a guy back home who sold roses
out his trunk / he’d wait outside clubs
and ask if anyone wanted to buy a pretty lady
a keepsake / something to ensure
she remembers you / something sweet
to accompany the drinks you’d gifted
all night / I remember watching gangsters
buy roses like lottery tickets / chase women
all the way to their cars / remind them
which drink came from which pocket /
plead to be remembered /

do you know badgers make their homes
underground / while we celebrate the day
they wait around for dark / all the men I love
are nocturnal / stumbling vampires
in search of midnight roses / one night I stumbled
out a juke and couldn’t find my car /
haunted neighborhood blocks for what seemed
like leap years / I grew gray
that night / started tracking my own footprints
in snow / do you know what it is to track
oneself / it requires divine patience / just when
you think you’ve found your target
it moves / the way a sober shadow might /
the way an almost granted wish does / the way
a badger moves once the last person on earth
places her head to the pillow / it peeks
above ground to let the bobcats know
it isn’t dead

Related Poems

Another Elegy

This is what our dying looks like.
You believe in the sun. I believe
I can’t love you. Always be closing,
Said our favorite professor before
He let the gun go off in his mouth.
I turned 29 the way any man turns
In his sleep, unaware of the earth
Moving beneath him, its plates in
Their places, a dated disagreement.
Let’s fight it out, baby. You have
Only so long left—a man turning
In his sleep—so I take a picture.
I won’t look at it, of course. It’s
His bad side, his Mr. Hyde, the hole
In a husband’s head, the O
Of his wife’s mouth. Every night,
I take a pill. Miss one, and I’m gone.
Miss two, and we’re through. Hotels
Bore me, unless I get a mountain view,
A room in which my cell won’t work,
And there’s nothing to do but see
The sun go down into the ground
That cradles us as any coffin can.

Notorious

After I read, the boy with the long, blonde, shaggy ponytail says, “your set was great, like, don’t be offended when I say this but, you remind me of Biggie Smalls.”

if i shouldn’t be offended | why do you say something you believe | has a chance of offending me | offend | meaning to hit | strike | against | when you say offend | do you mean the blackness is the strike | or the fatness is against me

|

he says this and | i become who he believes i am | my hands thicken | my fingers plump | my long twists shrivel into a short afro | my chin oceans a shadow | my cheeks tumor typhoons | my lips are fat pink | each | word | drags | itself | out | my | mouth | like a guarded hearse | each line | break | squeezes a song | a rap | a dance | beat for this boy tonight

|

biggie smalls | and i are both geminis | we are both twins | of each other | we both tar | dark | thick | it’s a wonder | how we heave | and heave | and weave | and stand | behind a mic a tall | we all | black and ugly as ever | however we spell well | B | I | G | all rhyme and good time | we both love it when you drive by | and call us | big | poppa | ain’t you ever been popped off | been shot at | been blown up like the world trade | don’t you like your meat center medium | brown skin rift | red nectar running off the curb of the plate

|

the difference between a fat black nigga rapping and a fat black dyke poeming is in the cadence of the eulogy spit | or | the difference between a fat black nigga rapping and a fat black dyke poeming is in the faith of the women who love to love us back

|

it is september 2016 | i am on a stage in texas reading poems outdoors | perspiration jogs from my tight curls and finds shelter along my lips | my underarms are a swamp | and still | i do a rap i wrote | and they laugh | despite the heat they sing along | arms reach up | in surrender | i am a secular god | a holy holy | words jetting out like jamboree |and i worry | i look too much like |a concert | like black joy leaping | like a hip hop song in the 80’s | a house party walled in saturation | like summer time | like somebody | everybody | wanna be a part of | like a sweet jam sweatin | blasting | juicy

B-Sides from my Idol Tryouts

1. Just like in true life
The wild geese approaching treason, now federated along one keep
May we find a rafter

 

 

2. I like the way you don't
go into the cabin
That is how I like it: methodically, mythically, my accidents are protests,
are my only protests, they are never accidents

 

 

3. We even misprism the past
Turn our waltz on the face of another
To turn on
To turn against
Opposite statements that express the same, sometimes, or binary like the lines:
Man is something to be overcome, what you you done to overcome him
or
Just how far can you push the heroic guy to being evil
and how far can you push the villain to being somebody you can
care about
or
Floodtide beneath you, I see you face to face

 

 

4. Check out your mind
Masquerading with dawn
It was invented by the press
Press harder (press not push)
The bell, the liquor, the deck of card crisp hardships surfacing as clovers and nights at his club getting low, if they ask you to sell them, don't
On the Corner, (side 1) try
Thinking of one thing and doing another

 

 

4. Repeat: But we are
Only getting rich in order to repeat these trips

 

 

5. But we are getting rich in order...
So neither group can be understood except in relation to the other
as in/
as out/
as excuses for true stories—

It's just that his passion costumes his thoughts,
not just his past
Not just a fat vacation Sunday
Also an emaciated smoke break
Also broken into images of smoke,

the way smoke moves
From tobacco
or factory chimney
your mouth
your vandalised memory
in order
to get rich
Someone has to work there and believe it into disappearance

 

 

6. Wealth: I am farmers/I am a thief.
Fame money/anonymous fame/factory farmed/black thief/by black I mean/
Buy black I mean
We are what sells
Thinking to ourselves:
Something in me wishes this wasn't my poem—
That emotion is glory or—
still?

 

 

7. Compliments: The only one I want is (the) speechless/
ness, (he) nestled in me bold and hip like a broken risk

 

 

8. Peaty Greene, Casius X (who's that) Jack Johnson, Blind Tom Wiggans, Bama the Village Poet, Gregor Samson, Fred Hampton, Josephine Baker, Lester Young, will you give up your death for me? Teach me why I am a destiny

 

 

9. If you think about me, and you ain't gonna do no revolutionary act, forget about me, I don't want myself on your mind

 

 

10. Anyway, innocence. Man is something to be overcome, what have you done to overcome him. Digitally pacing the stage as his future and his past, a full body holograph of Tupac Shakur. But then when he got shot no bitches came out, no music, nothin'. Just some critics' unphased mumblings: man you were marvelous but your co-star the gun was a bit over the top

 

 

11. Rehearsal for God Bless the Child.
I wanna get it right
Let's start with 'rich relations'
Green sides of goldsides
I immediately had to get a drum instructor a trumpet teacher and a sword twirling coach. Get your silence together. Hope is final

 

 

12. Super soul/supra soul/hip hop's egoless self-agrandisement is the next
toll/phase on the free/way, high/way, autoroute, or space between proof and privacy in loose weather

 

 

13.The man you love is walking home in Hollywood. 5 or 6 police cars come up, about 8 cops around. You fit the description, you always fit the description, you fit the description of a robbery in the area. A black guy, wearing jeans, 5'8," the whole thing

 

 

14. He had dreams of really hitting it big with his stereo store
He'd play samples of Caetano Veloso singing 9 out of ten movie stars make me cry, I'm alive!, or— One thing leads to another, but the kid is not my son or god bless the child that's got his own