The Real

West Baltimore, 2017. The murder rate is up 78% this year.

Kids together, we come up
on the West Side corners, never knowing
the clock. Never showing care

Way I remember
it was mostly summer
B-Mo heat hanging on you like a jacket

city stink of piss and spilled beer
garbage strewn on corners  swarmed with flies
a cold orange pop was all we want

or maybe lake trout from Al’s.
That was a good time.
I look now at the old Polaroid somebody’s girlfriend took,

the faces and names. Bucky, Little Fry, James, Cedric
and I like to remember them,
boys full of balls and promise and just young

posing on the corner arms crossed
Bulls shirt with MJ’s number
baggy Levis the newest style

Cedric killed a man for a handful of yellow tops
caught and convicted as an adult
sent up to Jessup forever.

Little Fry and Bucky gone too,
and James moved to Philly with some auntie
I stayed, teach school now. Funny, that,

my punishment for escaping
death to watch the corner boys just like us
heads full of dreams, waiting for something

or like Baldwin says, growing up to fast
only to slam their heads on the low ceiling
of their actual possibilities

In 2017, black men in Baltimore aged between 15 and 29 are as likely to die violently as American soldiers were in Iraq at the height of the country’s Baathist insurgency. As yet, there is no sign of Maryland or the federal government taking the sort of emergency action such a disaster would seem to justify. The murder rate has increased by almost 80% this year.

Written in response to The Daily Post: Corner


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