Now that my afro's as big as Shaft's
I feel a little better about myself.
How it warms my bullet-head in Winter,
black halo, frizzy hat of hair.
Shaft knew what a crown his was,
an orb compared to the bush
on the woman sleeping next to him.
(There was always a woman
sleeping next to him. I keep thinking,
If I'd only talk to strangers. . .
grow a more perfect head of hair.)
His afro was a crown.
Bullet after barreling bullet,
fist-fights & car chases,
three movies & a brief TV series,
never one muffled strand,
never dampened by sweat--
I sweat in even the least heroic of situations.
I'm sure you won't believe this,
but if a policeman walks behind me, I tremble:
What would Shaft do? What would Shaft do?
Bits of my courage flake away like dandruff.
I'm sweating even as I tell you this,
I'm not cool,
I keep the real me tucked beneath a wig,
I'm a small American frog.
I grow beautiful as the theatre dims.
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/shafro