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sunday wrap pt. 1 (8-27-17)

for Sahbabii’s Pull Up Wit Ah Stick

It is dark and I hear my neighbors cheering. They are airing the Mayweather fight in their backyard. I see two bobbing bodies. Men. They are holding glass bottles. If those bodies holding bottles move down the driveway and to the street, they are illegal.

In the background, blocks away, I hear the wallop of police sirens. Are they hungry for Black glass breaking? Do they want to pull shards of glass from their gums? Do they lick the shards hoping to taste blood’s sweetness?

The cheers now sound like cries. An upset; in which direction? Mayweather won. Even if he didn’t, the purse justified the circus. Although he should, he doesn’t have shit to worry about.

The police are quiet, hoping to dissolve into the night. I know this because sometimes I see their lights flash and hear their yowl clear. I do not move. Then they turn everything off. A cruel warning. It doesn’t matter because some people have an unaccountable sense for the police. A preternatural aerial view. Like birds. That’s why some gangs chirp.

The match is over and the neighbors are laughing. A gathering where the fight is scheduled and money the only chip to bargain is what some would call an easy party.

Above, a police helicopter passes. The searchlights are on but the helicopter doesn’t sound very close to the ground. Not low enough to disrupt any ordinary, long silence. Not low enough to make the air beneath the helicopter hard to breathe and the ground stir, and move.

The gathering has thinned. It’s cold, or too cold for now, and tonight begs to marry a blanket. My hands are stiff and my toes are numb. It is August.

The helicopter is gone. It flew in the direction of Queens. What’s funny is there have been times I’ve endangered people by pledging my allegiance to the police. Having these officers around. Having these officers around makes me feel deeply guilty.

The block wears light well. The block is decked out with streetlights emitting a warm orange glow. It’s beautiful for New York. Old. A neighborhood both remote and under surveillance.

There’s a ghost house down the block. It’s a ghost house because no one lives there but someone did. We don’t know where the people went (another subsidized house of the city most likely) but the boarded up windows and brown cracked grass remind us they are, in truth, gone. Gone. What a funny word. Final but perpetual. And the agony tied to accepting an ending. The heart aches, wondering if there is any way to work around final, just to buy time. To figure out the best goodbye, and never being able to come up with one. Always settling on ”later”. Gone. I told you it’s a ghost house. The windows are boarded up because there was fire. The side of the house is burned, the protective outer layer singed and dangling. The stories about the house might be bigger than what it really was but here is the one I know. The occupants were loud and Jamaican. Their front yard was the receptacle for all the candy wrappers and cigarette butts that blew in from the street.

I don’t know what the backyard looked like.

They were careless. Once K- leaped from her seat, on my verandah, and sprinted into the street to grab the round waist of a barefooted toddler who had run out into it. Once a fight broke out between two men, one squat and bowlegged, and they threw garbage cans at each other. The bowlegged man, father of the barefoot baby, was always caught in the web of some farce. And his mother, a rotund woman with lips always pried open with insult, sat on the cement stairs with her legs spread wide and ankle length skirt hiked up; ready and vexed. Those are the only three I remember. Everyone else? The people that regularly came and went? Faceless. 

The story really is the house caught fire because of an unattended cigarette. The story really is the floors were covered in worn and soiled mattresses– even in the kitchen. The story really is drugs were found hidden in a wall. All of those faceless people came and went to mine the wall’s ore. That’s the story I know.

It is dark and it is quiet. Every so often a car rolls past. The party is over. The police haunt and hide. It is early Sunday morning.

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this is a move [impressions of people we love]

1.

Your hand, unattainable, is next to me. Grit underneath your fingernails, the joints of your fingers practicing scales on your knee. I played piano once. My teacher, who left, told me I had the shape but not the understanding. I took that to mean I had already achieved something I didn’t deserve. But your fingers are right there: nervous, bearded, ever-touching fingers. I remember how they felt that time you pushed me up against a wall and tried to shove your hands up my skirt. That was the first impassioned kiss I’d had in months – no teeth or calls to stop – just mouths probing each other for a peek into the darkness of our bodies always knowing it would be impossible to swallow each other. We could have said that we were lonely; we could have said a lot of things like we were drunk and didn’t know better.

We didn’t know better.

And we didn’t know better again when we watched videos in bed and awkwardly wanted to see if our mouths had grown wider, if one person’s insides could consume the other.

Now you are all fingers and knee taps; I am all half glances and feet pointed with concerted effort.

 2.

I am spatially uncoordinated. Physics, calculus, planes, dimensions, lengths, depths, time: all foreign. Sometimes I speak and my tense doesn’t acknowledge the proper time or my words lack depth or some other aspect of myself is painfully incongruent to the point that I am always floating somewhere near here and you are always there. See, the inability to master spatial coordination has me falling in love with people who never occupy the same space as me. At first, I thought it was a fluke, that I was unobservant and desperate. Even selfishly self-sacrificial: to pine endlessly for people I could never come to have. But I am not the only one to do the beholding. People  give me signals, innumerable variables, equations of what they want and each of those signals is miscalculated by me. I wonder how many people I’ve lost because I couldn’t properly interpret the coordinates of their system. And all of the men I have loved from distances that cannot be traversed. Distances inscribed along the lines of constellations I try to trace with an outstretched finger touching nothing but air.

I am always quadrant four, bleeding off the page. You look like a parabola dipping into quadrant one, exiting in quadrant two. Sweeping, sloping, infinite, gentle, fanning yourself over graph paper into creation.

I am a series of dots with no lines, pencil etchings so tenuous the shadow of the eraser is the only mark that will stay.

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Justice and Watermelons

If justice means anything significant, that is, if it means something important enough that we want to shoulder the weight of our feelings and the route to which we achieve justice, justice would mean creating a world where I can remain unencumbered.

For example, I am on the back of a truck with one hundred watermelons and an arrow without a bow and the vastness of the sky is above me. I am obligated to the melons because they are not mine — but they are in my care — and I have to transport them to someone on the other side of the city. To someone with my bow. But the sky is immense and I know, if I hold in air, the air will carry me like a balloon and I can float to the top of skyscrapers, to the edges of the atmosphere, to space, to infinity. I know, within me, I am able to traverse air. But I have all of these watermelons and a bow that is puncturing my ability to dream and be big.

The watermelons are dense and ripe and I want to smash them into fleshy jagged bits so the insides bleed fruit juice. An imaginative pedestrian may pass the dismembered watermelons and think the scattered, refashioned fruit is some person’s entrails or brain matter on the sidewalk. I want to smash the watermelons in pieces so small the fruit has no other possible course of action than to disappear. And I will leave notes on the road leading to the person who owns the bow that all say, “I am sorry; I love you. I’m sorry; I love you.” I’ll attach the arrow to the last note so the person knows I am not cruel, merely unjust. I am desperate to be unencumbered. So desperate to breathe in the universe that made me and sail into the sky.

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30. Mr. Softee’s Song

On Thursday, the weather spiked into the mid 60’s and Mr. Softee returned to the streets of the northern Bronx. Everyone could hear the poor speakers of the ice cream truck emitting that all to familiar childhood nursery rhyme. One person who anxiously awaited behind the screen door of their house said, “That song reminds me of a jack-in-the-box.”

All of the heavy wooden doors were pulled open on 227th street. Every resident, of each house, stood either behind a cracked open screen door or on their respective verandahs with loose change and singles in hand, slippers sheltering toes. 227th’s residents, who’d barely seen each other over the course of the winter, especially because there was no snow, reacquainted themselves. The adults asked common, perfectly impersonal questions for the sake of passing the time. The children, who made friendships based upon age and summer, screamed at one another from house to house.

“I got a new bike for Christmas!”

“For real? Lucky! I got a skateboard and some rollerblades!”

“Will you let me try them out? When it gets hot enough?”

“Of course! We’re gonna race all summer!”

And those children could not wait.

It was 9pm when Mr. Softee finally turned onto 227th street. Most people only waited half an hour and all of the children who had crept to peek outside, through the legs of their parents, were not shooed to bed but allowed to of receive their first ice cream cone for the year.

The truck looked the same — as the children had remembered from the summer before; as the adults had remembered from flashes of their youth — white, boxy, a rectangular opening that could be closed by sliding glass back and forth.

The residents of 227th, rushed to the middle of the block, spilling into the street, waving dollar bills in their hands.

“One at a time, one at a time,” said the ice cream truck driver.

Parents conferred with their children, spouses double checked with each other. Everyone knew what they wanted: cones and milkshakes, sundaes and ice pops.

Mr. Softee didn’t leave the block for an hour. Not because the lone ice cream dispatcher couldn’t fulfill orders expeditiously but because he had been able to serve everyone so quickly and had some time left over (his route was complete) before having to return to the ice cream truck depot. The same neighbor who made the connection between the ice cream truck and the jack in the box, invited anyone who wanted to hang out for awhile to come sit on the stairs leading up to her house. About thirty people came, chocolate smeared around their mouths, maraschino cherries falling into laps.

Those who congregated on the steps, shared stories about how they felt when they were growing up. The wars they’d seen. The love they’d experienced. The scraped knees and sunburnt skin. They spoke of the escape from boundlessness only to fall into more boundlessness. The children who’d been allowed to stay up, remained silent and ingested these stories just as they swallowed their ice cream. The adults laughed and sometimes, when the conversation had taken an unexpected heavy turn, the adults administered respect by way of silence.

Eventually, the driver of the Mr. Softee truck said, “It’s getting late. I’ve got to go.”

“Yeah, you’re right!”

“Man, it’s way past my bedtime.”

“Kids why didn’t you tell me it was so late? You’ve got school in the morning? You need your rest.”

Mr.Softee turned off the music from the truck — which had been playing all along — although the song was unnoticeable when everyone was talking. The driver waved goodbye, all of the residents of 227th street went back into their houses, and went to sleep.

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3. Domesticity (part one) [365 project]

Martina’s dress as a homemaker is unflattering. Her red-brown skin is muted by the khaki cloth. The non-formfitting shape of the dress bunches at the bust and clings to her body only when she ties the starch white half apron around her ample waist. She no longer ponders if her body could be winsome in the day; she no longer looks to the floral island dresses of her youth to provide a welcoming nest for her body to reside. She is all khaki and white, khaki and white.

Martina arrives before Mr. and Mrs. awake. She is at work before the sun angles into the sky, when the morning birds squawk of the temptations of life; she arrives before New York City has the bravery to shine its lights again — the city still rests in quiet contemplation.

Mr. and Mrs. live in a building guarded by a doorman too formally dressed — polished hat lacking commendations, polished shoes as mirrors — to occupy any profession other than a Kafkaesque gatekeeper. The doorman and Martina leave their confidences aligned, do not dip into meaningless formalities, decode and undress each other with the kindness only shared by friends of equal worldly positioning.

“Missus, how yuh ah stay?” the doorman asks.

“Lord Jesus let me live for another day. Me can’t say anyting bahd. How yuh uno?” Martina says with an undemanding smile. The darkness of the morning hesitates to fade her face. Her black kinky, knotted hair, smoothed into a high set bun, opens up her face — cheekbones firm and naturally blushed, lashes fanning over glinting brown eyes. The doorman looks upon her, breathes in how effortlessly she carries being a person, communicates his acceptance of her loveliness with a sympathetic “Mmmhm.”

“Everyone is fine. Another day; the same old.”

“Work the night shift again?”

“All this week.”

“The missus must be mahd.”

“She nah fret when she look pon de check.”

“Me catch yah soon, yah hear? Time to head up.”

Martina walks across the tan marble of the lobby, observes the new plants, how the whole lobby gleams with sterility. She makes a sharp left at the concierge’s desk, eking out a smile to Carl as he nods in and out of sleep, and walks towards an unlabeled door leading to an unfinished freight elevator.

The metal doors of the freight elevator kiss into completion and she rests her body against the fabric lining the back wall of the elvator. Her white shoes are equipped with orthopedic inserts but she still feels the weight of standing. Slip on, slip off.

The metal doors disengage. She enters yet another vestibule where she removes her coat, pats down her apron and prepares the key in her fingers.