NaPoWriMo #3: From ’70 Till Infinity

Originally uploaded by URBAN PHOTOS

We take a break from the persona poems for a bit in order to celebrate a personal holiday because (to riff off of Amiri Baraka) “poems are bullshit unless they are/teeth or trees or lemons piled/on a step” or can celebrate an occasion. And a poet is mos def bullshit if he can’t comb through some personal memories and share them out with little regard to public opinion.

Will this poem survive a workshop critique? Will this poem make it into a chapbook? Will it work its way into the manscript? Can it make one person smile?

Let’s see. In quick order: I don’t care. Maybe? See previous. I damn well certainly hope so.

From ’70 Till Infinity
For E on his birthday

Knowing the name of things is hard
especially forgotten things,
things from childhood
found, lost, used, discarded

After a while, it fades into idiom
We say phrases so many times
We forget their origins
How dawgs was a put down
a name for a man who abandoned
responsibility and took to the streets

Now, it’s Hey, dawgs! and What up, dawg?
and There goes my real dawgs.

Language turning on us, erasing
us from our own histories

I need this history, this reminder
things don’t just happen to us
We are the inventors
We make the dictionary
sing and turn for us

So when I need to remember
I call to you, brother

Ring you up at inopportune moments
And ask for the name of things

Where was Jew Man’s?
Off Southern Blvd and Westchester
Who invented the Pee Wee Herman?
Duh, It was Pee Wee Herman.
Why was it called ‘skelsies’?
Because it’s shaped like a skull.
Who first rocked the red and black lumberjack?
Now you’re just biting from Biggie.
Did we really use to say ‘For the birds’?
Yeah, we used to say “For the birds.’
But what’s it mean?
You need this for a poem, right?
I need to remember where things come from.

When ‘For the birds’ meant just that For the birds
When it was all freeze tag and stickball
When you matched the thicklaces
To the pinstripes on your straightleg Lees
Putting the BVD on over your Le Tigre
Hopping on the Q44 even with a bus pass
Getting to a tv on Saturday by three
To see how a brother gets revenge
Racing to the Mr Softee truck
Doing a suicide flip right just once
And not remembering how you did it
Scrawling your secret name
With the thin edge of a fat Sharpie
Staying up late for Chiller Theatre
Then having nightmares about it
Knowing what a Reggie bar tastes like
Reciting the lineup: Goose, Catfish,
Rags, Yogi, Billy, Bucky, Donnie

Tipping that hat for #10 because
Munson was our first fallen hero
Rooting for the last place Yankees
Slapping a quarter on the glass
To call dibs on Robotron
Knowing what calling dibs means
Never losing on Robtron
Getting your dad to come down
With you to Jew Man’s
So you don’t get ripped off
Finding an excuse to call your dad
Getting your boys to come with you
To Jimmy’s Comics
So you don’t get ripped off
Getting your boys to come with you
To Jimmy’s Comics
So you can snatch a comic
The greek diner under the six train
Where they know how you like your breakfast
Bacon! Extra crispy! on Wednesday
and Bagel, heavy on the shmear on Tuesday
Jamaican beef patties on Coco Bread
Drowned down with quarter juices
Bribing the security guard at the bakery
To pass you warm bread and butter at 1am
After Skate Key closes down
Knowing what hip-hop was before
It all when to the birds
Knowing the name of things
From this day to infinity

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