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Willie Perdomo

Willie Perdomo is the author of The Crazy Bunch (Penguin Books, 2019); The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon (Penguin Books, 2014); Smoking Lovely (Rattapallax, 2003), winner of the PEN Beyond Margins Award; and Where a Nickel Costs a Dime (W. W. Norton, 1996), a finalist for the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award.

His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, BOMB, Mandorla, and African Voices. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee, a former recipient of the Woolrich Fellowship in Creative Writing at Columbia University, and a two-time New York Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellow. Perdomo is also founder/publisher of Cypher Books and is currently an English Instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire.


The Crazy Bunch (Penguin Books, 2019)
The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon (Penguin Books, 2014)
Smoking Lovely (Rattapallax, 2003)
Where a Nickel Costs a Dime (W. W. Norton, 1996)

Children's Books
Clemente!, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Henry Holt, 2010)
Visiting Langston, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Perfection Learning, 2005)

Willie Perdomo
Photo credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

By This Poet


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

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