Miya asked a regular-looking cat with eyes cut like a death sentence/ what his skin was hungry for/ Black Boy spoke back with tongue split/ the jury decision for Pookie ‘n dem/ that one summer/ (’97, ’07, I forget)
“I want one of them birds flyin’ away from the open book on my skin. You know, a black bird or something. Bent wings and shit. Half flight, half free fall. All the kids got it, they want freedom so bad, gotta etch the prayer down lest God forget. I know too much ‘bout blank canvas and nothin’ ‘bout the owner of the ink. Only half of us have a choice: be a mural or a martyr. Bleed Marrow or Sparrow or (be) Widow Maker, whichever escapes the casket well enough. When they put me on the ground, the mortician will account for either bullet hole or hieroglyphic.
So I’ve got to choose fast. I got to fly faster.
I promised my mother I wouldn’t house ghosts but a wino told me my black the same color as a mausoleum.
Walked home from the Rec last night, there he was looking all serpent shedding skin. Ashen and Ashes and Asé. Grim Reaper sipping Merlot the color of marrow, like I was up next for gathering. I realized black boys outchea tryna brand themselves so we don’t slip from nobody’s memory. I ain’t got no name, but my body a testament without title. Memory a funny bitch…. Words can be washed from her, but pictures stain like ink.
I feed my body needles every now and then hoping my hands stop itching after someone else’s blood. They bred us to carve cavities in the temples of cadavers, but I know we all looking for Holy and settle for holes in the meantime. The wino was trying to scare a revolver back in my hand but I think a symbol on skin is revolution enough. Tupac was a prophet and here I am wasting all my oracle tryna be an Aesop fable bound in gunpowder.
Better yet, sketch me an ocean of oil. Dark and slick. When the time comes, I’ll arm my skin and slip between the cell bars or wooden box, or however they’ve stolen my liberty. Ain’t there some poem ‘bout fruit and firearms? “The darker the berry, the more bitter the blood” or some shit? Ain’t no Crip gonna fire at a colorless man dressed up in poetry and war paint. (My blood run blue, or red, depending on which way the war rages, so I don’t quite belong to nobody)
The boys on my block said you know our black so well you make it sing and laugh and all the shit we’ve forgotten how to. Told my mother I wouldn’t get nothing tatted that make me look more bullseye ‘round these parts and I’ve done many things but I’ve never lied to her. All I need is a talisman or totem to keep my heart beating ‘til I can find a cure for all this.
Do your magic, griot. Make me sing. I know our ancestors had warriors that danced before battle. So when he fell from a spear the last thing the village remembers of a fighter is the way his body jazzed in and out the firelight. Last thing I need is the homies forgetting how the sinews over my skeleton moved. How we danced, all of us, between the bullets, until the spears spittin firelight caught up with us.
All a black man can hope to be, in the end, is a beautiful canvas… boasting ink ‘til the breath run out.