I am still trying to wrap my head around Patricia Smith's reading tonight. And how I can't wait until I can read Blood Dazzler without breaking down, tears threatening to swallow me whole like the flood after Katrina devoured so many grandmothers like mine.
Man, Roll the Window Down!
On a slushed side street in the Bronx, a determined hustler
attacks your smudged windshield with enterprise, sloshes
the pane with old water and rocks a feverish squeegee
before you can mouth the word no. Stunned at a sluggish
stoplight, you have no choice but to force a smile, nod idly
while he stretches the busy machine of his body across
your hood and whips the gritty wet round and around.
It's a second before you notice that his mouth is moving,
that although he leapt to his task without warning, he is
now attempting to converse as men do, to pass the time,
to shoot the shit. You avoid the mouth, choosing instead
to scan the dank street for anything. There is lots to see--
stands tiled with cheap neon skullcaps, shuttered houses
of praise, the fragrant entrance to Chicken, Ribs & Such,
a city-assed woman drilling her stilettos into concrete,
the butcher shop with price tags pinned to sick meat.
In other words, there is nothing to see. He's still draped
across your Corolla, wiping, squeaking dry and mouthing.
Damned insistent now, he thumps on your windshield
and the light has changed now and behind you drivers
toot elegant fuck yous. You scramble for your wallet
because damn it, that's right, hell, you gotta pay the guy
for the gray crisscross swiping that dims the chaos
just enough. But what's the message of that mouth,
he needs you to know something, inside the huge O
of his wild miming there's a collision of collapsed teeth
and you slide your window down to a symphony of horn
and mad street spittle, and your hustler's message,
what he had to get across before he let you pull away
from that street light, Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!
he spurt screeches, his eyes fevered with whiskey
and damn-it-all, no verbs or adornment, just Obama!
as if his wiping little life is stuck on triumph, as if
that's all anybody needs to know this day and as he
leans in to roar his one-word stanza, damn the money,
you see that every single one of those teeth, tilted
and pushing for real estate in his mouth, every single
one of them is a gold like you've never seen before.
- "Day #7," from Starting Today: poems for the first 100 days