Celebrating Local Poets

I hope I made it clear at the outset of this month that I’m not really a poetry person. I don’t go to readings or slams, or even usually buy poetry (although, I’m trying) so when I come across poetry, or more likely, it comes across me, I try to appreciate it. Some poets make this very easy. My son and I saw Chinaka Hodge, an Oakland poet, interview Daveed Diggs a few years ago (back when Q was deep in his Hamilton phase) and I bought her book, Dated Emcees, afterwards. Every poem is great. Here’s one with lots of local references that blows my mind. (stanzas 2-4 should be indented but I can’t get the formatting to stick)

the b. side

we were drunk off survival at the white bar
your brothers hollering at thickies in rainbow dresses
you got me for a song, bought me liquor after
liquor i couldn't afford.
reminded we'd both be thirty, come fall
you wanted me. with your father's squint asked twice
to have your children. you did that. in oakland.

i am nothing
like how you make me
in the verses, you know

this void i plead be spackled over
with a child who can't leave and
for decades i've thought myself too ugly
damaged and smart to deserve anyone

i told you i worry all my lovers recast me with
prettier, easier, origami versions of me.
like you did in the video, remember.
tell the truth

you took me stumbling dumb ecstatic to a grand white
hotel at the edge and top of my town
bit the fleshy gap between my knuckles
played me til naked with frankie beverly and the jones girls
so when the rubber slipped and you just kept on, well, 
i imagined you was for real. 

the morning after. you wanted it gone. even the idea.
you left the engine running didn't even think to pay
at walgreens on fifty-first. i overdrew my account. said ah
and waved my tongue. swallowed the pill. this is what is done.

i held my crotch and vomited in secret that day
while we drove your brothers sightseeing. in oakland.

copyright 2016 Chinaka Hodge, from Dated Emcees.

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