Day 20: Gas Leak, Revisited

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Gas Leak, Revisited

I was stuck in a country music bar on base
due to a gas leak; don’t ask, I didn’t get it
either, but our instructor bought us a round
of Jack ‘n cola to pass the time, and damn, bruh,
that shit tasted like tasty-ass smoke, ya knamean?

I was hooked on brandy at the time, but that changed
‘cause that Jack Daniels tasted like brandy with balls,
but when I told my classmate, he was like, nah, son
you should try this, and he fitted me with bourbon,
and damn man, it was like all my shit locked in place,
the air felt right, the gal behind the bar flirted,
the lady next to me almost got me dancing
and if we’d all died in an explosion that night,
I’d have been pretty chill with how chill things turned out.

But we didn’t die, the gas leak was cleaned-up good,
and my homey who showed me that dope-ass new drink
dropped me at the airport to meet wifey in-time,
and yeah, he probably shouldn’t’ve been driving,
it was fucked-up, but we got away with it, and
that’s not really the point I’m trying to get at;

I mean, when I was trying new drinks and flirting
with women I never would’ve met otherwise,
up to that point in my young life, I never felt
so… you know… alive… like I was finally here,
and all that woke shit came to a dead-ass ending
as soon as wifey flew back in from Chicago,
like, the vibe was gone, the warning signs were right there,
but I just said fuck it and moved on, making sure
I added bourbon to next month’s shopping budget.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 20 prompt: write a poem that “talks”; that is based in normal, contemporary spoken language.

I typically try to use cuss words moderately in my poetry and within context; never for “cheap heat” or shock value, but when it comes to my normal every-day dialogue, I cuss like a… well… you should know by now.

Note: I know I skipped yesterday. I was drained, so I gave myself permission to take a break. I plan on making-up yesterday’s prompt, though.

Day 3: Belle was a Humbug

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Photo by Mark Pan4ratte on Unsplash

Belle was a Humbug

Belle was a humbug. No such character
could ever release a loved one from
his promise with a full heart. It is
unrealistic and takes me out of the story.

Or perhaps I should not have revisited
that tale during dreary mid-January,
with all the cheer
left at a New Year’s Eve party,

where we couldn’t be bothered to pretend
to like each other anymore. A trick
time plays on us makes us mistake three weeks
for ages ago,

and a mostly-empty midnight bus ride – heading
towards total emptiness – lurches forward
into a future free of certainty and old routines.

“End of the line, boss,”
the driver reminds me.
“You good, young blood?”

“Yeah, I’m good,” I lie easily
with a smile – cause that’s my thing as
a practiced liar – skipping off
the bus into a freak wind storm.

Yes, I still skip from time to time. What,
you’ve never seen a black man on the
back-end of his twenties skip before?

It happens; get over it.

I soon stopped skipping as I began walking
North with the wind rushing me along
with the rest of the displaced litter,

placing further distance between
where we’d been, and
where ever I was going.

It began to rain that annoying Seattle spittle,
except for the random fistfuls of spite smiting me
in the face as the wind swirled and changed directions
as if it didn’t know what it wanted to be either.

I’m chilled to the bone,
knowing I deserve far worse
than this climate change.

It was only slightly too warm for snow,
but cool enough to keep me moving
through a desolate tree-lined park where
people smarter than I had long abandoned,

and the long, twisted shadows
had longer twisted memories.

“Human garbage,” mocked one of the shadows.

“You wanted her to catch you in the lie,”
sneered another. “You didn’t even have
the guts to end it like a man.”

“Shut up,” I countered. “I tried
to end it. She wouldn’t let me.”

“But now it’s different!” a third shadow joined in.
“She saw your text messages! She knows where you’ve been!
Where you’re going! And she still wants you back
like nothing happened! After all you let happen!”

“She knows,” I repeated,
“so we can never go back.
I made my choice.”

The darkness echoes with laughter
as the shadows talk over one another.

“What a safe and terrible answer!”

“You replaced a woman who truly loves you
with an empty vessel! An Idol of newness!”

“You’re not losing a wife;
you’re gaining a side-chick!”

“Side-chick, indeed? Ha!
You mean rebound-chick!”

“I’m sure this side-chick-rebound-upgrade is
going to work out great for you, young man!”

I hope you are truly happy
with the path you have chosen!”

I cover my ears
and cinch-up my hoodie.

Damn know-it-all shadows.

Leaving the mocking shadows behind, I
arrive at my destination, knocking lightly
on the door, as to not disturb anyone
not expecting me who may be already

asleep. I’m just used to slinking around.

A single light comes on, and soon she
is scrutinizing my soaked face.

“I did it,” I said.

“You did it,” she repeated with a smile.
“To be honest, I didn’t think you had the guts.”

“Yeah,” I said.

She leaned into me, gently kissing my wet lips.
“Things will be different now,” she said.
“Much better than hiding. You’ll see.”

“Yeah, different,” I repeated.

But if there had been no
understanding between us,
would I have sought her out
and tried to win her now?

I knew the answer.
It’s all a big humbug.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 3 prompt: write a poem that meanders, full of digressions, that takes its time getting wherever it’s going. Since that almost seems exactly what I always do, I really let myself ramble here. Sorry about that. 🙂

Author’s note: It’s only day three and I’m already struggling to stay on the pace! Also, between work, homelife, and writing, I haven’t tended to my reading and comments as well as I should. I’ll try to do better, but thank you all for continuing to drop in on me.

Day 1: Aftermath (How not to Declare Love)

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Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay 

Aftermath (How not to Declare Love)

Allow her to drift back into blissful slumber
next to you
even after she gently tugged you
from your own dreams
to indulge in her fragrant valley
for the second time that night
long before the glow
of the very first time
you urgently knotted yourselves
had dissipated.

Sitting up in her bed,
with moonlight kissing her skin
where you had also done twice-over,
observe her naked breast
rise and fall
in melodic peace
as she
begins adding snores to
the composition of frogs outside
singing for their own
companionship.

Reminisce about two months earlier,
when random chaos
compelled your collision with this woman
whose smile gained a foothold,
whose laughter melted your guard,
whose eyes conspired with your own,
creating a micro-language,
with syntax known only to two.

Resist,
as much as you are able,
the persistent feeling that
even if this woman
is not to be yours forever,
so be it,
for some part of you
will always belong to her,
no matter how much you
rage against
this peculiar sensation

while simultaneously
flirting with abandon
to gain her favor,
knowing that in some way,
she also fails to resist her own
internal battle
as she is drawn to you.

Believe the lie,
with all your heart,
that you must stay the night,
for it is too dangerous to be
on the road alone
at this ungodly hour.

Accept the backrub,
for you are indeed tense.

When she kisses your bare shoulder,
your neck,
gently turning your head to kiss your cheek,
offer your lips,
for it is only polite
to accommodate a host
who holds your next breath
within her breast.

Allow what is occurring naturally to happen,
and then allow it to happen a second time.

Return to the moonlit moment
as she sleeps peacefully in the aftermath
mess-of-afterglow
you both created.

Overwhelmed by unwanted emotion
that has always been a persistent companion
to her captivating charisma,
nuzzle your naked frame into hers,
holding her close
as if you could grasp and own this moment
forever,
and whisper into her ear
the inexplicable truth
part of you wishes was a lie;

“I love you.
I don’t know why or how,
but I do.

“Perhaps I always have;
certainly, I always will,
but I do love you.”

Watch in muted horror
as her snoring stops suddenly.

Sigh in relief,
once her snoring resumes.
Add your snores to hers.

Awaken to a new day as if nothing happened,
for after all, this is just a casual encounter;
just a “friends with benefits” thing.

After all,
feelings are for suckas,
right?

In fact,
once she drops you off at work,
don’t even lean-in
for a goodbye kiss.

But do pause before leaving her car,
as she has just said your name
and tugged at your sleeve
to gain your attention
(as if that were ever in question).

Allow the goosebumps
to infiltrate your skin
as she kisses your cheek,
and when she turns your head,
offer your lips,

for it is only polite
to kiss the one who
offered you a ride to work
after claiming your body, soul,
and dome the night before.

Try not to react,
even as your heart
leaps from your chest
when she tells you,

“Oh, by the way; I love you too.”
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s Day 1 prompt; write an instructional how-to (or how not-to) poem.

She Reminded Me of That Night

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Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash

She Reminded Me of That Night

The deckplates pitch,
dive, and roll
beneath my feet,
denying any firm sense
of place.

Darkness pours into sight,
lenses straining for substance,
pupils expanding to
engulf any semblance
of light in moonless night.

The ship’s hulking,
shadowy silhouette
lurches into view,
slowly shrugging as
I ride her spine,
the sound of her
slicing the ocean
is a choir of
Poseidon’s vanguard,
shushing our advance
through His domain.

The peacefully disquieting scene
is almost bearable until
turning my gaze upward,
facing the weight of the cosmos itself,
the twinkling slivers of each planet,
star, cluster, nebula, galaxy, light
from both minutes and millions of years ago,
all bearing down upon my brittle soul at once,
crushing me with the weight of
my own insignificance…

“Do you remember that sensation?”
she asks, pausing to clean
her multicolored,
dappled feline fur
passively observing
my tormented meditation.

“Stop it!” I gasp,
squeezing my eyes shut
even tighter.

“You became disoriented,
and had to look away
to regain your bearings,”

she continued,
chuckling to herself.

“Remember how the
near-endless
points of light
became the spots
of my fur?”
she pressed on
unhurriedly,
but resolute.

“Just reminiscing about it
makes my head spin,” I whimper.
“Please, Nihirizumu. Enough.”

“But you asked me
about the pulse of your poetry,”

said Nihirizumu
in a mocking tone.

“You wanted to know
where that throbbing vibe came from,
so long ago
or did you not?”

“I remember now,” I concede.
“It’s too much for me. Please stop.”

“Very well then,”
said my poetic pride
with a weary sigh
and dismissive tail-flip.

“But you need not shrink away
in fear of the cosmos.

“You think yourself insignificant
in comparison to its light,
but you are both from it
and of it.

“I hope that one day
you will gaze upon the vastness
secure in knowing
that you gaze upon yourself.”

I opened my eyes,
took a deep cleansing breath, and
began writing this.
***

Written for dVerse Poetics -your poetic hum, hosted by Gina. I missed the prompt, so I’m sharing it at Open Link Night # 239, hosted by kim881. Other dVerse contributors can be found here and here.

While there is virtually no link to my poetry and what I do for a living now (frankly, each entity exists despite the other), there was a link to when I was once a sailor staring into the night sky free from light pollution for the very first time. I don’t recall ever feeling as small as I did that day, but that was only part of it…

With the deck moving beneath my feet and no point of reference, it felt like being everywhere and nowhere simultaneously. It was as thrilling as it was terrifying.

Sage’s Laughter

Sage’s Laughter

Reaching the summit was of no small feat
Great Sister’s reception felt bittersweet
The young man bowed to her respectfully
The old woman shrugged an indifferent beat

“Great Sister,” he greeted her fretfully,
“I come to you troubled, regretfully.
Life seems meaningless, yet death do I fear.
I pray you change my heart’s trajectory.”

The old woman peered through somber veneer
Her response, sincere, and yet still unclear
“Your fear of death is a fear of pre-birth.
If your life lacks meaning, why are you here?”

The young man searched her words, seeking their worth
He puzzled their weight, finding only dearth
“I climbed this peak seeking your renowned sage
but you made it clear I serve as your mirth.”

Great Sister stood fast in his bleary rage
“My child,” asked she, “recall your pre-birth stage.
You cannot; for none of us know that time.
The same is death; an unreadable page.”

The young man mused over these thoughts sublime
He asked, seeking reason within the rhyme,
“So death is a void and life, but a joke?
If true, does that make existence a crime?”

Great Sister laughed soundly before she spoke.
“The void and joke are both yours to invoke.
We are a part, not apart from the whole.
I am flock and hen; you are shell and yolk.”

The young man bowed as her words took their toll.
his heavy heart lightened by her console
Path to the valley, beyond his control
Its footfalls? Perhaps his own to insole.
***


(NOTE: Audio at the 4:30 mark mildly NSFW.)

Written for Frank’s Rubaiyat Challenge on dVerse.

Doink-Doink

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears

Doink-Doink

Imagine, if you will, training most of your life perfecting a difficult skill most don’t understand or respect. You hone your highly-specialized craft in a world where most risk life, limb, and brain-trauma fighting for that extra yard, and yet few who fight for those yards can replicate the one thing in which you have invested the most.

Now imagine developing a reputation for succumbing to external pressure and frequently failing at the one task you’ve spent most of your life perfecting. Your brothers who risk life, limb, and brain-trauma fighting for that extra yard continue to believe in you and try to boost your confidence as external forces clamor to see you fail again so they can tear your embattled spirit to pieces.

Lastly, imagine that the very thing you fear most comes to pass; failure on the greatest stage of your life, melting beneath the microscope of notoriety, your greatest effort summed-up in an onomatopoeic, “doink-doink”.

I sat on my floor, having just slid off my couch, staring at my screen in silence, no longer feeling January chill born from an old furnace and poor insulation. Numb to external elements, I didn’t feel the anguish I expected in typical expected terms. The team wearing the laundry I’ve rooted for since I was four had been bested by an apparent missed kick, and as I watch an entire city prepare to heap hatred upon the kicker’s slumped shoulders, a single thought echoed repeatedly in my head…

“That poor kid.”

frail sun slips away
winter night falls unannounced
I have faced both ways
***

Written for dVerse Haibun Monday: January, hosted by kim881.

Condition Zebra

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Condition Zebra

The ominous klaxon wails as boots drum steel. Seatbelts are clacking among the hurried professional murmuring. My mental-checklist rolls tape automatically within: flashgear-check, gasmask-optimal, headset audio-go, mic-check good. My scope hums into action, glowing green and amber.

“Weps, One online,” squawk my butterflies, as I note the surface contact sent to me automatically by my boss. It’s beyond gun range, but it’s streaming right for us. A single anti-ship missile would hastily end its aggression, but we can’t launch a preemptive strike without just cause. And so, we wait.

“Weps, aye,” boss booms in acknowledgement, adding, “Surface-action port-side, bearing 279-relative…”

Breathe

“…Renegade gunboat coming in hot… not responding to our hails… I guess the pirates wanna play…”

Rely on your training. You got this.

“…Batteries-tight. Do not fire unless fired upon, but stay frosty, ya got me? We got this.”

“One, aye,” I reply.

And now we wait.

the heavens shriek red
dawn or dusk, our plight unknown
now gird your courage

***

Written for dVerse Haibun Monday: Waiting, guest hosted by Imelda.

One of the US Navy’s unofficial slogans was “hurry-up and wait”. Not very poetic, I know, but the topic of waiting makes me think of those days.

Pariah

Pariah

As an artist, he spins artistry – I wholeheartedly admire
But lustful seed; malicious need, delicious greed fueling his fire
Misdeeds come to light and overnight, his blights birth a pariah

Setting his art apart in heart makes me Descartes to his pariah
His harmful slips trumps craftsmanship, ripping all I admire
Provoked folks were broken on his yoke, and where there’s smoke there’s fire

Using muses won’t excuse abuse; can’t recuse flair from our fire
Through introspection, we selectively reject the learned pariah
Yet we learned the life-affirmed abuse of the abuser I admired

This known pariah grown from man’s own fire of cruelty, I admire
***

Written for imaginary garden with real toads Fussy Little Forms: Tritina. This is my second attempt at this tritina form.

Also shared on Poetry Pantry #424.

Background: There is a gifted poet who I admired and wanted to emulate a great deal. I won’t mention his name here, but some of you may be familiar with his work. He basically came from nowhere, grew up in squalor, as his people were oppressed and all-but-erased by the US government. He was physically abused as a child. But he eventually fell in love with language, pulled himself up, and rose to prominence as one of America’s dynamic new literary voices.

But tragically, he then used his newfound influence to sexually harass aspiring writers looking to him for mentorship. Obviously, my heart goes out to the women he victimized. Also, I feel like a fool for admiring him in the first place, and in some small measure, for still admiring him today.

I’ve been grappling with this for several months now. His actions were abhorrent and unacceptable. But I also cannot ignore the abhorrent conditions that birthed and probably informed his actions. Hurt people hurt people. Should this man be erased for happening to others? And what of the others who happened to him when he was a young innocent child?

I don’t have the answers, but I just feel sick about the whole damn thing.

Last Gasp

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Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash

Last Gasp

A Traveler searching the cosmos for entities worthy of elevation to Their plain of existence, upon trillions upon trillions of millennia, countless dust-specs orbiting one insignificant glowing orb after another, upon becoming disillusioned after the last red dwarf about 7.9 light years ago yielded no intelligent life, no rocky shores, no gas giants, not even the hint of an orbital debris-disk, had reached Their lowest point when suddenly, They encountered an unremarkable main-sequence star with thriving bedazzled bodies including eight stout jewels, with the third-from-center dazzling; an aqua-marine lively thing with atmosphere, liquid, and life, including intelligent life that was taking baby-steps in exploring itself and understanding the nature of things.

The Traveler was overjoyed. But then They looked deeper, seeing that this intelligent, relatively new life was rotting from within; at war with itself, exploiting and treating those perceived as lesser with contempt, fear, and hatred, hording food, healing, and education in exchange for trinkets of no intrinsic cosmic value – all at the calamitous global expense of poisoning the very environment they needed to survive, justifying all of this with superstition, dogma, and the disingenuous type of religion that closes minds from fully grasping the nature of things.

The Traveler sighed the resigned sigh of One who has seen this particular scene far too many times in Their travels. But there was no time to contemplate this decaying world’s all-too-brief impending fate; perhaps there will be better luck at the next star over, which is actually a binary system, so perhaps not. Still, the search must go on if the Traveler is to prove that They’re not roaming Infinity alone, searching for meaning within the nature of things.

the leaf never knew
what she was when she reddened
falling from the tree

no one else saw her twirling
only I mourned her last gasp
***

Written for dVerse Haibun Monday: Murmuration, hosted by guest blogger qbit/Randall. Others contributed to this prompt here.

Rubble-Pile

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Image source: Google

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events is purely coincidental.

Warning: The language used in this poetic narrative and opinions conveyed by some of the story’s characters may be offensive to sensitive readers. Bad things are frequently said and sometimes done. Reader discretion advised.

One final word of caution: some of you might need this to wade through some of the thicker urban vernacular.

Rubble-Pile

frigid air burns lungs
breath, crystalized diamond-dust
we release our jewels

On our third time circling the block, I swallowed my nerves, looking at the rubble-pile we’d lingered at twice before. Suddenly, it became clear to me that the rubble-pile was where the old neighborhood corner store once stood. I must have been really preoccupied with my predicament to not have noticed before.

Shit was not looking good, fam. Still, I allowed my mind to wander. It helped to pass the time and relieve some stress.

“Yo Tony, what happened to the Arab store?” I asked.

“Nigga, you serious?!?” baby bro snorted from the driver’s seat. “9-11 happened, my nigga!”

Uncle John, cousin J-Rock, and Unc’s frat bro laughed.

John added, “Fools knocked down our buildings and they shit went up in flames that night, son!”

J-Rock co-signed; “These hood niggas ain’t gone let that shit slide!”

“That’s fucking stupid!” I said, incredulous. “They probably had nothing to do with 9-11!”

Probably,” said John, mocking my earnest tone. “What, you an FBI nigga and an army nigga too?”

“I’m not army, I’m navy,” I shot back. “And that’s the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard.”

“Spare us your morals, mayne,” said the nameless frat bro. I mean, he probably had a name, but fuck that guy. “Those Arabs didn’t wanna be in our hood after that. Sheeet, mayne, they prolly collected that insurance money and fucked right on off back to Saudi Arabia or Agrabah, or… or… wherever the fuck the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe come from.”

“Narnia, you illiterate fuck,” said John with a chuckle.

“Fuck you, nigga! You know I loved college! I just wasn’t tryin’ to hear all that white-washed knowledge.”

“This muthaphucka,” I scoffed. “Oh, so you came back home to help with all the senseless riots, right?” I found it hard to believe that two hours ago, I admired that frat boy for his knowledge, confidence, and charisma. I even wanted to swag like him. But now all I wanted was to finish with their ill-advised mission so I never had to see the arrogant prick again.

Fuck. That’s right. The mission.

Even with the heater cranked up, I felt the arctic night chill in my bones.

“All that time at sea and they ain’t teach yo ass shit,” said the frat bro, shaking his head. “You must think niggas invented rioting or some shit. White folks been wilin’ out since forever, mayne. The Boston Tea-Party is a pretty cute way to describe white boys getting drunk and destroying government property cause them hillbillies don’t like the taxes, ain’t it?”

The frat bro took a leisurely drag from his half-finished square. He blew out a halo of smoke before continuing. “Fuck outta here with that mayne. Even King said that riots is the language of the unheard, and that was one turnin-the-other-cheek muthaphucka. White folks who have all the money and power call rioting unnecessary because for those elite muthaphuckas who have fuckin’ everything, rioting is literally fuckin’ unnecessary, knaamean?”

“Yeah, but those Arabs ain’t at the top of America’s power demographic!” I countered. “Y’all went too far!”

Everyone in the car laughed. “Y’all,” mocked frat boy. “Nigga, I was in school. I don’t even live around here anyway. I’m from Evanston, real-talk.”

Y’all,” mocked baby bro. “Nigga, I was at work. Nobody fuckin up my money no matter how mad I get!”

“Yo, what’s yo alibi, Unc?” J-Rock asked.

“Unc don’t need no alibi,” John said. “I’m a grown-ass man. Just know that I didn’t burn down that particular store that particular night.”

“Word,” J-Rock co-signed. “They ain’t have no high-end electronics or jewelry in that bitch. What we look like, looting for a gallon of milk and some fuckin Cheerios?!?”

The car filled with laughter as my keyed-up fam talked over one another. I stared out the window at blackness interrupted by amber-jeweled streetlights and the random light flurry that hinted at snow.

I can’t believe we’re about to do this. Please, God, let this be a dream.

Then Unc John’s face turned as somber as the moonless frigid night outside. “Yo Tony, pull over for a sec.” The hooptie moaned to a stop. Unc reached over and turned down Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones” before turning to look at me as I shivered in the back seat.

“Desmond,” said John softly, “I know you just visiting on leave, and shit, man. You ain’t gotta be caught up in this shit. Unc understands if you wanna bail. We can get even another night.”

“Helluva time to ask,” I spat back. “Look, just do the shit and get it over with. I’m staying in the car, tho.”

The fuck am I saying? Fuck I’m weak. What a bitch I am.

“See?” baby bro Tony shouted, beaming at me. “My big bro ain’t no bitch! Let’s do this shit!”

Unc John nodded approvingly. “Aight then, fuck it. You stay in the car. We don’t want you getting your hands dirty anyway. You be getting all intellectual and up in your feelings and shit over a wack-ass nigga that deserves his reckoning.”

“Shhh! There he go!” J-Rock shout-whispered. “He getting out the black Escalade right now!”

“Wait,” said Unc, watching the man bundle his coat and hurry to the sidewalk. “Wait… wait… wait… Yeah, that’s him!” Unc paused to let the man step back inside the nightclub. “Let’s go!”
***

frosty, ashen still
night falls in jagged spaces
our joints fill with hurt

Fifteen minutes earlier, we were all in that club getting turnt! I was making googly-eyes at a cute girl across the bar. She made eyes back, but she was growing tired of waiting on me to summon the nerve to go spit game at her, even growing bold enough to make the “hurry-up” beckoning motion at me with her hand, wrist, and forearm.

I downed my shot, took a breath, and hopped off the stool, thinking of what to say to her as I slowly bridged the gap, wading through humanity writhing to the pulsating 808-beats when I heard shouting. Unc has a distinctive, booming voice, so I knew he was involved in the dustup.

I saw a well-dressed man flash his concealed piece at Unc, which I’m sure is a major breach of clubbing etiquette, as it insinuates that you’re just one sideways glance away from reaching for your Roscoe and putting two slugs between a man’s eyes for having the audacity to annoy you. Unsurprisingly, this breach of etiquette immediately enraged Unc. I don’t know what Unc studied in college, but it clearly wasn’t diplomacy. I think Unc secretly thinks he’s the Joe Pesci characters from those mob films.

“Oh, you wanna show me you strapped?” Unc boomed in peak-bravado. “I’m strapped too, nigga! My cousin and nephews strapped too! My whole crew is strapped! The fuck you wanna do, nigga?”

Technically, I was part of Unc’s crew that night.

I was not strapped.

Shit, the last time I touched a weapon was during my M-14 sentry training. I’m pretty sure the Navy don’t let twenty-four-year-olds take firearms home with them on Christmas break.

I should point out that we were only in the club on Boxing Day because I came home for Christmas, and Unc wanted to show me a good time.

I’m just saying it felt like he might’ve taken his eye off the ball for a moment.

Bouncers, security, and the owner quickly deescalated the situation, but Unc, and our whole crew – myself included – we were all 86’ed for being 80-percent strapped. Unc was still trying to flex though. “Flash! Flash! You throwing Me, out, Flash?!? I gave you seed-money, Flash! I helped you build this shitty-ass club, Flash, and this is how you treat me? Aight then, nigga! I see how you are!”

Unc was pulling that performative masculinity bullshit I’ve grown to hate, but I knew him from when we were both shorties. He’s my uncle by blood, but he’s only two years older than me, so I know when that fool is vulnerable and all up in his own feelings. If you’re around a muthaphucka your whole life, there’s just some shit you can’t hide. You can’t lie about who you are over that many Captain Crunch breakfasts and Saturday morning cartoons, fam!

Hurt people hurt people, and Unc’s eyes had a lot of hurt in them, so I knew he would try his damnedest to make Flash pay.

But I didn’t know the exact cost until about fifteen minutes later.
***

knotted, barren, ice
embracing leafless branches
they bend till broken

Flash had hopped out of his sleek, black Escalade, tightened his leather coat against the light flurries, and scuttled back into the club. I heard much later that poor Flash had left the club right after we did, hoping to smooth things over with Unc, but in a Shakespearean twist, Unc’s crew had already sped off, circling the block, plotting payback.

And I was among them, just wanting the night to be over.

Tony gunned the engine, and in an instant, we were parallel to Flash’s gleaming Escalade. Unc, J-Rock, and frat-boy jumped out at once, swarming like hornets. I could hear and feel the concussions as glass shattered and metal was punctured and bruised. Within seconds, that Escalade went from being pristine to a modern art masterpiece. Its wailing alarm went unanswered as the drive-by bricking continued unabated.

“Shit! Y’all hear that? Jake’s coming!” Tony shouted as police sirens wailed in the distance. “Let’s go!”

Everyone piled back into the hooptie except for frat-boy, who lingered, glaring at the twisted, dented, Jackson Pollock-forsaken monstrosity he helped create.

“Nigga, is you deaf?!?” Unc shouted as the sirens got louder. “Jake’s almost here! I ain’t gettin’ arrested again! Get yo ass back in the car! We out!”

Frat-boy swaggered away from our getaway vehicle, lifted the biggest boulder he could find, and sent it hurling through the wounded windshield with a terrible, calamitous sound. Then the jackass took a bow before no one before proudly hopping back in the back seat with J-Rock and me.

“Nigga, you stupid!” Unc admonished his old friend, in a glorious little “pot-meet-kettle” moment.

Tony gunned the engine and tore down Roosevelt Road at approximately Mach 2.5. Unc had to coax him into slowing to the speed-limit so as to not draw too much attention. I shook my head and glared out the window. The snow was heavier now, and it was sticking.
***

slushy asphalt plains
molded by glaciers’ past lives
stories left unheard

That’s it. That’s the story.

No moral lesson, no plot-twist, or comeuppance. To the best of my knowledge, we all got away with that shit. Nobody learned a goddamned thing that night.

No one came out the other side of the drive-by-bricking a changed man or any heavy-handed symbolic shit like that.

From beginning to end, this was just a bunch of nigga-synthesis; just a bunch of young, spiteful men getting together to commit young, spiteful vandalism because some young, spiteful jackass in a club full of beautiful people looking to have a good time didn’t like how another young, spiteful jackass was looking at him.

That’s just how quickly shit escalates in the hood.

Right after we vandalized that car – and I say we because even though I didn’t touch that Escalade, I had the chance to stop it before it happened, but I didn’t so that makes me complicit – we went out for burritos. That may not be “Goodfellas”-level mafia shit, but that was still a pretty cold piece of work.

I went back to the Navy a week later. I got my wish and never laid eyes on that Evanston fuckhead again, but I also never again saw that lovely woman who impatiently made the googly-eyes at me.

I still give Unc grief over killing my chance with a potential soul-mate, but he was all like, “Nigga, I saw y’all! It would’ve taken yo bitch-ass fore-score and seventy-five fucking years to shuffle over to her with somethin’ sensible to say! It’s the twenty-first century, my nigga! Bitches ain’t got time like that no more! And wait; wasn’t yo dumb ass married at the time? Just how many soul-mates you tryin’ ta collect at one time? Greedy ass!”

All fair points, but still.

Unc got arrested a lot – but never for wrecking Flash’s whip – and he eventually cooled off, married, had five girls, and basically became Mr. Mom, if you can believe that shit. He’s virtually unrecognizable from his wilin’ youth. He and Flash even mended their friendship, but obviously not immediately. Dude called Unc while we were waiting on our burritos, yelling threats and unfounded accusations, besmirching our good names and shit. Unc’s words, not mine.

Cousin J-Rock is still J-Rock. You’re probably wondering why I rarely mentioned him, and there’s a very good reason; J-Rock is fucking mental, and he scares the shit outta me. The lesser said, the better. I often worry about him catching wind of this story and getting offended, but it’s not like someone’s going to read it to him.

My baby brother Tony flips houses and helps homeless vets get back on their feet. Before that, he started a small business detailing cars. I know! Ironic as fuck, right?

As for me? What do I do now? I do well. I’m good. I definitely stay true to myself these days, knaamean?

I guess I lied. There might have been a moral lesson or two at play. I dunno. Fuck it.

You read the shit. Do you, mayne.

snowfall dampens sound
there is only who we are
echoes are empty
***

Written for dVerse MTB – Writing narrative poetry, hosted by Bjorn. Others contributed to this prompt here. This was supposed to be a condensed poetic story, but the freaking muse slapped me around a bit and it got away from me. Sorry about that.