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Stakes Is High

       ... 'cause his life is warfare.

              —MOS DEF AND TALIB KWELI


You know those people who are uncomfortable
having a conversation at a comfortable level?
Like, you ask Tony his thoughts on Kobe
or the LA Lakers. And Tony responds:
Schwarzenegger ruined their state.
Four years in office and more debt than '03?
Come on, man. Fuck California.

Yeah. So Tony's my dad. He's retired
but doesn't know it. He thinks sleep is
death's first cousin. Early a.m.s
my brother and me tiptoe meandering routes
around our house, avoiding his line of sight.
These are the hours he tunes to AM talk.
Reads his paper where the stakes are high.
Two Decembers ago, my brother Brian and me.
We're sharing cognac sips and cigarillos
shooting stars in a powdered driveway
when dad breaks from the Al Sharpton Hour.
Tracks prints to basement floor. He starts in
on precipitation: What type of grown-ass men
trek lines of snow through a house?
Me and your mama raised you better than that.

He shifts into hyperbole: When you two start
having kids, I hope you take plenty of movies.
Your mama and me plan to kick back—watch
the decline of common courtesy
. Then Brian
makes a wrong move. Smiles. Says snow was
trailed in a square. Technically a half rhombus.
Pops leaves us. Leaves the earth: Oh, so you
wanna joke about geometry? I hear scientists
developed a system for tracing racist thoughts.
Can you use your math on that?
Someone should make a drug to kill every last
bigot in the world. They should pump that shit
through the faucets.
Drunken laughs march Dad out.
In what world does he live? Michigan bigots
own bunkers. Unregistered land. And if I spent
one summer as a survey worker, if I phoned a woman
named Shanquita and assumed she lived in a hood,
is that intra-racist? Is it double-back racist to assume
you assume she was black? To assume you are not?
Would I be exempt from the ax? Could a black poet
fail the test? Let's say yes. Let's call my F a defect
of private schooling and exclusive subdivisions.
Let's call my death another gulp in the throat
of history's tireless typhoon, spinning backward.


Marcus Wicker

Maybe the Saddest Thing
Harper Perennial


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