by Michelle Troxclair
I grew up on hula-hoops and jump-ropes
Hopscotch outlines in my Grandmama’s driveway
Street-light alarm clocks
Mulberry bushes in the alley our after-school snacks
On crackers. Potato chips with hot sauce
Syrup sandwiches, Kix and Cheerios
Blue Charms suckers from F&L’s
Mr. Westbrook’s store, it was black-owned
He had chocolate coins and real ones
Pickled pig’s feet on the counter in old pickle jars
Grandmama had me bring her one every Saturday.
We watched the Lone Ranger with Pops on Sundays
And ironed our school clothes with crisp creases
Cuz we representin’ the family, so we had to be clean.
No matter. We had drunks on corners mumblin’ bout
Big brotha, who wasn’t a brotha, but formed white rocks
That broke the neighborhood, block by block
Big brotha drove black and white Fords topped
With cherries and berries on the prowl for rotten apples
And we always seemed to fit the description
Young, black and gifted—melanated meant criminally
Inclined and fine all at the same time
I loved them niggas regardless.
I came of age in knit leggings and big teased hair
And horny white men
Computers peeking over the horizon with cd’s and beepers
Drug dealers and pimps were uncles and cousins
They drove Bonnevilles, Cadillacs, LTD’s with ragtops
And Buick Electra 225’s—just like my daddy.
My daddy owned his own business too
He was a boss
And we didn’t know no different. Family was family
Including folks that didn’t have family.
Come get a plate!
Better clean your plate, “Cuz there’s kids starvin’ in Africa!”
I graduated know my blackness was a gift, just like
Raindrops in the summertime and the sway of my
It was cool. It made me strong.
My grandmother, tough as beef jerky in concrete,
Coated in bronze
Taught me to hold my head up
Walk with my shoulders square
Look folks in the eye and don’t take no shit.
Call spades, spades and be thankful for your blessings.
Cuz this life ain’t yours. Take your place in the Queendom
Amongst the ancestors
In this city of white folks, named from Natives
We stay in our places, cause that’s what we were taught
Hell fire on the other side of 72nd Street and ain’t no
Hair grease, skins or paintings of Jesus with Locs.
And we were o.k. with that.