Back in the Day

When we were boys
We called each other “Man”
With a long n
Pronounced as if a promise

We wore felt hats
That took a month to buy
In small installments
Shiny Florsheim or Stacy Adams shoes
Carried our dancing gait
And flashed our challenge

Breathing our aspirations into words
We harmonized our yearnings to the night
And when old folks on porches dared complain
We cussed them out
under our breaths
And walked away
and once a block away
Held learned speculations
About the character of their relations
With their mothers

It’s true
That every now and then
We killed each other
Borrowed a stranger’s car
Burned down a house
But most boys went to jail
For knocking up a girl
He really             truly             deeply             loved
really             truly             deeply

But was too young
Too stupid, poor, or scared
To marry

Since then I’ve learned
Some things don’t never change:
The breakfast chatter of the newly met
Our disappointment
With the world as given

News and amusements
Filled with automatic fire
Misspelled alarms
Sullen posturings and bellowed anthems
Our scholars say
Young people doubt tomorrow
This afternoon I watched
A group of young men
Or tall boys
Handsome and shining with the strength of futures
Africa’s stubborn present
To a declining white man’s land
As boys always did and do
Time be moving on
Some things don’t never change
And how
back in the day
things were somehow better

They laughed and jived
Slapped hands
And called each other “Dog”

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A Tale of Two Cities

A hooker was in trouble,
She twisted on her bed
And when she could, she whispered,
And this is what she said:

‘Go out and find my true love,
the one who did me dirt.
I’m sure he’s with another –
don’t give the lady hurt.

But tell him what transpired,
He ought to know the score,
And tell him that I’m dying –
O Jesus, I’m dying for more.’

While in another city
Inside an I.C.U.
The fellow of her fancy
Was in extremis too.

He cried ‘go find my baby,
The one who gave me this.
Be wary of her welcome,
Be careful of her kiss.

I’m sure she’s with a sailor
(Don’t make the sailor sore)
But tell her that I’m dying –
O Jesus, I’m dying for more.’

The outcome of this story
Is anybody’s guess –
Some say they both recovered,
Some say it was a mess.

They both have loaded lugers
Whatever else they’ve got –
The rule is not to use them,
The trick’s not getting shot.

For when affection falters
And down the tubes goes trust,
We’re right back where we’ve started
With self-destructive lust.

And now that I’m a bastard
And now that you’re a whore,
Our love’s a kind of death, dear –
Though Jesus, I’m dying for more.