When I was just a snot nose
           is one of my favorite
demotic phrases, for its fealty to two lords
that fickle balance of sound and meaning

that is part air and part earth—as much head
          as heart, which relies on a metonymy we all
recognize as tied to vulgarity and transcendence
dependent on our ability to be vulnerable again.

1) I recognize a real Don when I see one
                        as you can pick your child’s
          head bobbing among other kids
          with only a quick glance,
          spotting a haircut and gait.
          I find it remarkable that I spot
my car among the honeycomb of plastic and glass
or why I don’t walk out a bar
with someone’s black jacket more often.

We identify inanimate objects
when we see contiguous things
          because we consider our possessions
                      as extensions of ourselves.
                                  There is a slaver
inside me yet. This is why
          we know the eyes of mammals, not insects,
why we gas roaches, smash spiders, annihilate ants,
why I recognized the line of NOTORIOUS B.I.G.
          remember when we used to eat sardines for dinner
          not because I ate sardines for dinner—more like
chili spaghetti, chipped beef;
occasionally pot roast, anything my mom
          being a single mom of two, could make
quickly and cheaply after work, while we watched.

2) Biggie didn’t teach me to cook,
though his “Ten Crack Commandants” did
          instruct how to move weight, flip birds,
          be a dope boy. This is how my mother
                      taught me to cook, or more aptly,
tricked me how to cook. At first she left a fully
prepared roast in the fridge, asking me to put it
          in the oven at a specific temperature and time.
The next time she asked me to prepare the carrots,
                     then it was carrots
                     and potatoes.
    She was always crafty, in that way.
           Then she requested easy dishes
I had watched her make for years. I complained
                     but cooked not because I loved her
                                 but because I was hungry. I was 12.
                                 I was always hungry. I’m still hungry.
At 19, I loved the music of Biggie, but I still didn’t love
my mother. I was darker in thought than now. I mean,
                     all my friends were black. I mean,
I thought I was black. I mean, I wanted to be black
because I was crosshatched,
                                 stuck between the earth and the air,
caught in a pickle, jumped from the frying pan to the fire,
          called the kettle black, had a complex complexion,
because all I could do was injure my own injin’s engine.