What I Am
Fred Sanford's on at 12 & I'm standing in the express lane (cash only) about to buy Head & Shoulders the white people shampoo, no one knows what I am. My name could be Lamont. George Clinton wears colors like Toucan Sam, the Froot Loop pelican. Follow your nose, he says. But I have no nose, no mouth, so you tell me what's good, what's god, what's funky. When I stop by McDonalds for a cheeseburger, no one suspects what I am. I smile at Ronald's poster, perpetual grin behind the pissed-off, fly-girl cashier I love. Where are my goddamn fries? Ain't I American? I never say, Niggaz in my poems. My ancestors didn't emigrate. Why would anyone leave their native land? I'm thinking about shooting some hoop later on. I'll dunk on everyone of those niggaz. They have no idea what I am. I might be the next Jordan god. They don't know if Toni Morrison is a woman or a man. Michael Jackson is the biggest name in showbiz. Mamma se Mamma sa mamma ku sa, sang the Bushmen in Africa. I'll buy a dimebag after the game, me & Jody. He says, Fuck them white people at work, Man. He was an All-American in high school. He's cool, but he don't know what I am, & so what. Fred Sanford's on in a few & I got the dandruff-free head & shoulders of white people & a cheeseburger belly & a Thriller CD & Nike high tops & slavery's dead & the TV's my daddy-- You big Dummy! Fred tells Lamont.
From Muscular Music by Terrance Hayes, published by Tia Chucha Press. Copyright © 1999 by Terrance Hayes. Reprinted by permission of Terrance Hayes. All rights reserved.
The 2010 winner of the National Book Award in poetry, Terrance Hayes is the author of five poetry collections. He currently serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.
Date Published: 1999-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/what-i-am