Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


body shop

i've heard tell of a hustle
in brooklyn where clever folks
throw themselves in front of cars
lurching down eastern parkway

not the beat-up green mini-vans
or duct tape toyotas of poets, not
impalas bleeding chrome
spinning disposable testosterone

but mid to high end machines
of certain insurance booty, drivers
in the 30 to 50 year range, same
demographic as oprah's audience

i suppose there is a right and wrong
approach to this science, the angles
of minimal damage to consider, side
to bumper, back to door, head up

unless her poodle is well groomed.
few have retired, i would speculate
but work less now that checks
lack bounce and the mailman walks briskly

it must be the eyes, wide and clean
that distinguish these impact alvin aileys
from ordinary jaywalkers

at utica i marvel at the desperate genius
the split-second calculus, the risks and gains
of such occupation, before descent
into the dark anonymity of the 4 train

Credit


Copyright © 2012 by Quraysh Ali Lansana. From mystic turf (Willow Books, 2012). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Author


Quraysh Ali Lansana

Quraysh Ali Lansana was born September 13, 1964, in the town of Enid, Oklahoma, and received his MFA in creative writing at New York University.

Lansana is the author of mystic turf (Willow Books, 2012); They Shall Run: Harriet Tubman Poems (Third World Press, 2004); Southside Rain (Third World Press, 2000); and the children’s book The Big World (Addison-Wesley, 1999), as well as four poetry chapbooks. He coauthored, with Christopher Stewart, the book The Walmart Republic (Mongrel Empire Press, 2014), and has coedited a number of anthologies, most recently The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop (Haymarket Books, 2015).

In his work, Lansana travels back to his origins in the southwestern United States and takes a look at the politics, contradictions, injustices, and inequalities—in race, ethnicity, and social status—present in what he refers to as “The Walmart Republic.”

In his review of mystic turf, Major Jackson says, “In these poems that lyrically insinuate in brief yet lasting notes, Quraysh Ali Lansana tags the nervous streets, American foothills, domestic rooms, and memories that constitute our bluesy soul, and asks, ‘Why can’t we speak the grace we all avoid?’ We’ve no slipperiness here, just the solid walkings and meditations of a man poised in his life to speak the grace he’s earned and to speak his journey with enormous dignity and artfulness.”

The recipient of the 1999 Henry Blakely Award and the Chicago Black Book Fair’s 2000 Poet of the Year Award, Lansana is the former director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University, where he was also taught English and creative writing. He is currently a faculty member of the creative writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Oklahoma City University’s Red Earth MFA creative writing program. He lives in Chicago.

Date Published: 2016-03-23

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/body-shop