The following is an excerpt from an interview that I conducted with a 22-year-old MC, b-boy, and graffiti artist. He is a member of a hip-hop arts collective in the Bronx that I worked with in preparation for my undergraduate thesis on Bronx hip-hop through the generations. He is commonly referred to as “the most hip-hop cat” because of his ceaseless attempt to revive old school hip-hop in his lyrics, graffiti murals, and b-boy performances. I am the Q, he is the A.
Q: Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?
A: Umm in 5 or 10 years…ideally I would see myself in the mirror…nah…laughs. Umm I see myself doing what I’m doing still, travelling more… Read more
When Shiloh stepped out of the shower towards the sink he burst into flames. Yet his skin did not scorch; nor did his eyeballs melt to goop, nor did his hair burn to ash blacker than his mother’s stove. Instead, Shiloh reached for his toothbrush. It turned to liquid as he held it and seeped through his fingers down the drain. He looked into the mirror.
Shiloh trudged to his room across the hall; sparks from his feet’s fire traced his path. He decided to try to get dressed. It took him three pairs of underwear before he gave up with a sigh.
I have baby hands, still.
Tainted orange by (only) last summer’s
and my olive-grove origins.
They are not cracked-white,
Like my brother’s –
Ridges of biological code
Running over/over pink deserts.
But they are baby hands.
I’m standing on the beach, somewhere, I don’t know where, and I’m holding two grapefruit halves, one in each hand. My fingers feel mechanical; I can’t stop them from tensing, coaxing the juice out from the soft, pink flesh. The sun is setting. The color matches the pulp that covers my hands almost exactly, the same color that is revealed when you strip the silvery skin off of a salmon. My brain feels light, like after one or two hits on a joint, but I also can’t keep my eyes open, the lids droop heavy and I want to prop them open, want to keep staring at the expanse in front of me. Read more
Under the advice of his mother and father, the boy sought out tales of the great doctors of old; Henry Gray, Laennec, Hippocrates the Greek, Jean Astruc, these names and more, and the collected legends of the work they undertook to further mankind's understanding of the roots of disease, its diagnosis, its treatment, et al., swelled the boy's brain with dreams of greatness; the accumulated knowledge of their deeds invested him with ambition, and as if by radiation or osmosis, he found himself realizing that he wanted, above all, to become a great healer, Read more
Sometime this summer, over a video chat,
K asks, “But do love him?”
I say, “Like, obviously I’m in love with him,
but he’s such a freak.”
I look down, eating my ice cream and see
my Tevas on the floor next to this
awful black nail polish stain. Read more
The old man cobbled hands in San Fele:
He sewed glass eye buttons to my coat.
In San Fele, happiness is a needle
slipped through wool & eye. To seem
gentle & gently alter the sound
of church bells, we bellowed
when the Wolves came with tremors
to gut us like the pagans. We clutched Read more
was exactly what I thought, after
the woman tried to engage
in that particular kind of endearing conversation
between my legs. It was quite uncomfortable
how she smiled after noticing
the sticker of a “cute cat” on my phone case, which
wasn’t a cat at all. Instead of telling her
it was a lemur, or crying, or telling her Read more
I had to dig a sadness out of the mud. In the backyard, I scavenged what was left, brought it inside, placed it in a light brown pot. Now, its windowsill is struck by yellow 9am light.
Where does one find these things? I drove myself into a fever searching. My old high school, that coffee-shop, the bowling alley. The attic, the basement, the sock drawer. My fists clenched, my head pounding, I swore that I had looked everywhere that meant anything.
But it was in the backyard that I finally found it, a sadness, buried. I guess I had been hoping for something like an answer-key, or some sort of spiritual enlightenment, like the smell of broken earth or a freezing autumn rain in shorts and t-shirt, but what I finally found was the same-old, a life begging to be lived again and no different, a clump of dirt, all roots and no flower.
I’m sorry for watching you dance at a party
with no lights on. You were a shape. A shade
or two darker than the air around
us, thrumming, thick. I’ll give you my eyes to see, closed
halfway in a grinned-out and lolling skull,
so you will know how at first, you were a swaying
tree or a cloud curling under itself somewhere
between the tops of all our houses and the moon.
In that dark you were the proof of wind. Read more
It got dark and I let it. In a letter I wrote and ripped
before signing, I told you how I never finished
watching Cat on a Hot Tin Roof because the first
half had you next to me and I don’t want to know
how it ends yet, exactly. I’m on the floor in a house
where everyone is sleeping
and maybe I want to be like the morning Read more
Near the foot of the Caucasus Mountains, a viper rests on a rock, bathing in the cold Russian sun. It flits its tongue lackadaisically. It is a Vipera Kaznakovi, more commonly known as a Caucasus Viper. But with its minimal intelligence, it knows itself by another name. To translate into English, the closest approximation would be “Lo.” Though his intelligence is minimal, it exceeds any other snake or reptile by a staggering amount. He is aware of himself and aware of his intelligence. Lo is disquieted by his awareness. He is vaguely aware that his intellect supersedes that of anything or anyone he has ever known. Read more
For years I slept with a bible beneath my pillow and I dreamt of a loathsome god. I remember this in 2014, in a movie theater in Brooklyn. It comes to me all at once, as memories do—and I am startled. Why remember my faith now, after I have called myself faithless for so long? It has been a decade or more since I pressed creases into my cheeks with the corner of that holy text. Read more
mom is living. mom’s mom is dead.
my houseplants are living. myspace is dead.
punk is dead. the rich are living.
arnold schwartzenegger is living. robots are dead.
the ends of my hair are dead. yogurt is living.
the squirrel on route 9 is definitely dead. debts are living.
what i forgot is dead. a walk is living.
door home is dead. getting a new wife is living.
the other car is dead. strangers on the internet are living.
having a lot of sex is living. baby teeth are dead.
menstruation blood is dead. too much spit is living.
dry grass is dead. april is half living.
the cicadas are dead. you are living.
i am not dead. i am not dead.
you are not here.
first grow some jelly from inside your skin
then push it out in threads and make a rope
use this rope to ooze your way up a tree
(think of bark hard against your soft small self)
choose a mate you really want to fuck
they will make the hard bark hurt go away
say their name ten times out loud (in slug)
this will surely get their jelly going
now take your rope and touch it to theirs
and now it will feel super super good
fall from tree together held by slimy rope
dangle fucking in mid-air, something else
begins to grow: glowing blue blooms from inside
bodies, blue, you’re blue, everything is so pretty
you’ve fucked a jungle lamp into being
you’ve come, you’re falling, inelegant end
hit the ground in a bed of fallen leaves
carry your rope behind you, hear it squish
girl slug in love is girl slug undone
Two weeks later I’d come up with a routine. I rolled out of bed as soon as Faith was up, which was often before six AM, her heavy footsteps causing the floorboards around my head to chirp like chickadees. I’d help her make breakfast and pack my lunch for school, get on the bus and get off at Oak Springs Elementary. I was ahead of their lessons by almost a month, so my teacher would let me spend math hour reading instead. I was like a shiny new penny to the Oaks Springs fourth grade. They didn’t get many new kids. At first they swarmed around me like ants on a piece of sidewalk gum, but two weeks of me being nothing special had cleared away most of my fans. Read more