. . . once you turn 30, it’s like they take the heart and soul out of a man—out of a black man—in this country, and you don’t wanna fight no more.
— 2Pac
OK, so it’s true
that last week I let Andrew,
half in the bag, a little crumpled,
cuff my wrists, then
perhaps, too familiar, wing an arm
around my neck, &
then, he even called me his
boy. Yes, regrettably
I let it happen,
near the butler’s pantry
in the dean’s peat-green Victorian
with the mansard roof—
a mere eyeshot from
the visiting poet, black
(why’d I tell you that?), &
yes, I could have dug hard
my measured nudge—
could have drummed a song
of scotch & wind from his chest
with one thudding blow, Brother
Pac, were it not for my chronic
misfirings in mixed company.
By which, I mean: me, at those dry-
ass parties. & too,
that pesky other thing.
One thing worse than being too
seen, is the not being seen, in profile.
Ellison said something like that at 38.
I say, it is still very much like that.
Which is to say I waited,
until all the peanuts from the gallery
had gone. All the olives, the brie,
the mango chutney co-opted
from proper serving trays & safely
out of range to say, Are you okay?
Which, I’ll admit, was weak.
Dear Pac, if there’s a heaven
for a G, the red Rorschach splotches
of cop-shot bodies you must stomach,
floating toward the kingdom
each sunset. Yes, I know I don’t see
what you see. But I read the internet
& history. Stand at rallies, weep
openly. I metabolize rage,
almost all of the time.
You’re right.
I should know better
than let an old white man too close
to my throat. That’s true.
But Pac, what would you do
for love in southern Indiana?
Maybe not ride or die, but a friend
who compliments your Goodwill tie,
when you miss the memo
about a customary cummerbund?
It’s a slippery slope, & I know
I shouldn’t let Drew slide.
You throw certain folks a rope
& they turn into cowboys.
Holler if you hear me,
sometimes it’s hard to tell
the mozzarella from the brie.
O, say can you see
I’m warring inside? & who am I
even really talking to?
Editors’ Note: Marcus Wicker was a runner-up in our 2016 Poetry Contest. The winner was Cori A. Winrock. The other runner-up was Desirée Alvarez.