Essex Hemphill



There will always be nuisance.
or I could let myself be captured
by the magic flute of satyrs
who would gently lure me to entrapment
to drink my blood
for one more day of life.
If in my substance
it could be conveyed
how little I give a damn about tomorrow,
the length of my trousers,
the circumcision I didn't agree to,
the daily shave, the score, the mythology.
Would they be shocked to discover
contempt clinging to my cells like algae.
Nuisance: dying to assuage insanity.
Religious fervour. Moral pandemonium.
The unexpected lurks near the hours
you thought private.
What will you accept
in exchange for your silence?
What life do you want
for one more day?
If it's a better vision
let's die here, a soldier's death,
the death of tulips -- and spring.
If blood and flesh will win us
a new world that is not a token
or a statue covered in pigeon shit.    
Family Jewels

 for Washington D.C.
I live in a town
where pretense and bone structure
prevail as credentials
of status and beauty.
A town bewitched
by mirrors, horoscopes
and corruption.

I intrude on this nightmare.
Arm outstretched from curbside.
I'm not pointing to Zimbabwe.
I want a cab
to take me to Southeast
so I can visit my mother.
I'm not ashamed to cross
the bridge that takes me there.

No matter where I live
or what I wear
the cabs speed by.
Or they suddenly brake
a few feet away
spewing fumes in my face
to serve a fair skinned fare.

I live in a town
where everyone is afraid
of the dark.
I stand my ground unarmed
facing a mounting disrespect,
a diminishing patience,
a need for defense.

In passing headlights
I appear to be a criminal.
I'm a weird looking muthafucka.
Shaggy green hair sprouts all over me.
My shoulders hunch and bulge. I growl
as blood drips from my glinting fangs.
My mother's flowers are wilting
while I wait.
Our dinner
is cold by now.

I live in a town
where pretense and structure
are devices of cruelty.
A town bewitched
by mirrors, horoscopes
and blood. 


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