- So Much for America, and: Don't Become a Stranger, and: English, and: Order of Confusion, and: Ahmad Jamal Is an American Jazz Musician/Amaud Jamaul Is an American Poet from Compton, and: Possum Dead
So Much for America
I was interrogated via helicopterwhile taking a shortcut througha field I was handcuffed leavingthis post office I was placed ina lineup in the middle of the streetI dress nattily I wear sport jacketsI use rubbing alcohol to keepmy sneakers clean My sweat shirtswith the stitched block lettersfrom certain colleges won't stopcomplete strangers from searchingmy crotch I whisper uncontrollablyI smile when nothing's funny Gunat my temple Shit stinging my earIs that a knife in your hand I thoughtprotocol was the scruff of your collarOn the curb On your stomachCheekbone on the hood The smellof good wax I'm so aware of mybody Do you think about your bodyLook at your hands Show me yourhands I'm returning to EllisonI'm surrounded You're surroundedBut I'm always alone [End Page 185]
Don't Become a Stranger
Walking with my boys or cousins, people would see us comingand move the fuck out the way. What did I care? What mattered,their fear, projected, irradiating my skin. I've known somemurderers before they were murderers: some were always angry,most started off with laughs, flashed pink gums when they smiled.I taught this prison workshop. Got back out to the parking lotafter the first session and told the chaplain I was done.I couldn't explain how being so comfortable made me so ill,how being locked in a cage with those men was my closestto home. Now people driving Confederate flags around me.My model General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard I carriedas a baby, engine of my mouth, humming: Oh, I wish I was … Oldtimes there are not forgotten … Look … Look … running thoseplastic wheels across my legs. I'm waiting for my butter burger,these people in full camouflage as their casual clothes. I assumethose stains are paint splatter, I know enough not to ask. [End Page 186]
Always a drunk white womantrying to acquire the Negro dialectof my body, like picking up a secondtongue. And I can see how it starts,complete strangers fingering my son'shair. You know, a semicolon isn'ta hard stop, but it's more than a pause.Sometimes a wink. I've learned to lovethe nervous laughter that sinksinto silence like boards, splinteringbeneath a dance floor. I almostslapped a child over a complimentabout my teeth. Think, sex as syntax:new ways to bend a sentence, the body,appositive, a string of dependents,where our double negatives meet.When I couldn't spell words likeinterrogate, integrate, or prerogative,I would drop my pencil under the tableto look up my classmate's skirt. I'm stillwaiting to get suspended. Our viceprincipal, Mrs. Schultz, had a paddlewe called Old Yeller. The grip was taped,it had a long, black handle, she had to useboth hands when she swung. She was oldand cold, the wood was shot full of holes. [End Page 187]
Order of Confusion
No lie: Adams Funeral Service has a drive-throughwindow, and when the Golden Bird first got thatplexiglass lazy Suzan, I thought, How futuristic.
The speaker at the check cashing was always broken,so you had to dip your mouth down like drinkingfrom a clogged fountain to name your denominations.
After the church fire, they built a new sanctuaryon bingo and catfish and two-piece barbecue dinners.White bread served as a collection plate for the sauce.
The line took so long you carried that smell of pignutwood in your hair home. The Price Barber Shop, thatDale's with the monstrous rotting stucco doughnut on top,
those are our oldest businesses. The Liquor Mart, untilsome fool lost control of his Cutlass and...