ways of pronouncing rapper, 2017
lil uzi vert,
how they make the tongue polysyllabic,
stretching the way we wield our mouths to pronounce:
that sings our glory,
its grime and gospel.
what other way to sing autonomy?
what other way
than to break
the way 808s shake
license plates loose
on the rears of big body
how we say,
a boogie wit da hoodie,
& our minds retract all predictions
and become bilingual
three minutes at a time
as if to say
we are unscripted
—freestyle our names too.
i’ll never forget watching
my aunt attempt to muster
a water main break with
a single roll of paper towels
dripping with the same water
our neighbors bathed
in earlier that night while
questioning how the only Black
folks on the block managed to
stay afloat for years.
an open letter to the police department
after the news of andrew kearse
playing dead is not a pastime,
not a way of claiming liberty, or
self-justice, or elduing your inevitable
force, when a Black body stops moving,
it is always already a blues-hit silenced
by a government that believes
died in police custody somehow—
makes murder sound less aggressive.
albany middle school teaches a lesson on entrepreneurship
our bookbags be a Black market—
meager juveniles brandishing singles
behind blacktop filled fingernails
and back-pockets void of wallets.
by nine, i break even. jamel pries
open his second box of starburst, while
kumi brokers six bucks to a sixth grader
for the lack of supply and huge demand.
half past noon, our surge
comes to a halt, and we gather behind
the b building to compare profits
and crack jokes on jamel’s short shorts.
tuesday through thursday be the same saga.
transactions in the hallways. while friday
be a sabbath, a space for us to take flight
over the basketball courts with our nikes.
on sunday, costco be a kingpin
that knew we’d never miss a re-up unless
ms. peggy called our mothers in for a meeting
to discuss the school’s drop in lunch sales.
monday be a chalk talk, our first lesson on
the ways our brown bodies aren’t allowed
to yield the same way other bodies are.
aren’t allowed to multiply the same.
my son, tell them the body is a blade that sharpens by cutting
- ocean vuong
today’s prayer is for honing steel,
a third testament that Black folks anchor
to their galvanized body in ink. today’s
prayer is for a radical revision. in this variation,
jesus grew up in oakland off seminary
and oakland don’t have two cheeks. after
the first, you’ll discover how sharp Black
can be. in this variation, simon, andrew
and john are angela, eldridge, and huey.
today’s prayer is for honing steel and a chopping
block. today’s prayer is for peer review—
today’s prayer is to revise and resubmit.
today’s prayer doesn’t include
submission. today’s prayer is broadcast
from calvary and longinus didn’t get the good
side. in this variation we don’t lose blood,
just dull shrapnel. today’s prayer is for a blade.
today’s prayer is for a self-sharpening body.
Daniel B. Summerhill is a poet, performance artist and scholar from Oakland, California. He received an MFA in creative writing from Solstice of Pine Manor College. His work has been published on Obsidian, Rust + Moth, The Hellebore, Gumbo, The Lilly Review, and elsewhere. He lives in California’s central coast and is Assistant Professor of Poetry/Social Action and Composition Studies at California State University Monterey Bay.
For more information, and to order copies of DIVINE DIVINE DIVINE by Daniel B. Summerhill, please see here.
ways of pronouncing rapper, 2017 was previously published via A Garden of Black Joy Anthology
an open letter to the police department was previously published via Monterey County Weekly
albany middle school teaches a lesson in entrepreneurship was previously published via The Hellebore