They Won’t Find Us in Books

By WILLIE PERDOMO

And after we officially gained entry into the Brotherhood of Bad Motherfuckers, what could our mothers do but lose sleep, wake into prayer, prepare herbs & apples, cursive the names of our enemies on loose leaf, & let their names dust in the sunlight.

Now everything is clean, rezoned & paved, tenements abandoned like whack parties, what is left for us to do but summon bullies from their graves & liberate ourselves from influence.

Gone are the old Spots near the takeout, old flames where we used to make out, the Spots where the light used to fade out, the letters we wrote from burning buildings.

Our shoulders were made of stone, our evil was translucent; turn us into mortals, so we can cry without judgement, surrender our cool, and watch us morph into men.

Let it be known that we chased Killer Dillers before the cans got kicked for good.

We were made from repeating Blocks.

Holler if you hear us.

There was never a once upon time because all it takes is one person to get away with it, to get away & get over, to get some & get up, here we go, c’mon, here we go.

You our history, you said.

If being free means burning a few things, then play that number for us straight.

The corner was between us and the world and sometimes you just needed to be okay with not telling.

If anyone asks you about your destiny, don’t explain.

Maybe this is the story we tell to turn ourselves into music, bass & bully, a string pulling at both ends.

They won’t find us in books, you used to say.

Everybody say, Yeah, and you don’t stop.

We practiced our lives in lobbies & layaway, ganders & goofs, boosting lines from the radio, breaking dynamite styles, we were god bodies, we had god in our bodies.

That’s what Brother Lo used to say, he used to say,

A man can stand on the corner long enough to
see a dream etched on a Herb’s forehead; to see
desperation exit from a subway station; to see
a tragic hero come back to reclaim his
           city,

so we downloaded his bars & gems, and, no doubt, when it was time to tell our story, out would come fire & spit.

Willie Perdomo is the author of The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He teaches at Phillips Exeter Academy.

They Won’t Find Us in Books

Related Posts

Gabriella Fee

June 2022 Poetry Feature: Gabriella Fee

GABRIELLA FEE
Death springs from me like a hothouse flower. / My mother swaddles me in terrycloth / and vigils me for three days in her bed. / Pillbox. Rice and lentils. Kettle. Psalm. / She dims the lights as though I were a moth. / She combs my hair.

Image of Zhang Qiaohui and Yilin Wang's headshots.

Translation: “Soliloquy” by Zhang Qiaohui

ZHANG QIAOHUI
You know where Grandma is buried, but do not know / where Grandma’s Grandma is / Jiaochang Hill’s graves have long been displaced, now covered with lush greenery / In the mortal world, a saying, “to have no resting place even after death” / I stand at the old burial ground.

Tree

May 2022 Poetry Feature

By ELIZABETH METZGER
For now, let us choose not to remember / who said History repeats as Tragedy then Farce, / and who else / repeated such nonsense / with variations because, friends, allow me / to be pedantic, just this moment. History repeats / as Tragedy more than once.