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.