Afro-Seattleite Fragment #6: Prayer in the Mode of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Posse on Broadway," or South End Kid Returns To Capitol Hill Six Years After Graduating High School by Malcolm Friend

Dear Heavenly Father,

Let no sucka crews try to test me

These muscles are still tense    
       from crossing my arms
               all those years ago
                       when I wanted to swing them.

Don’t know when
    they might rubberband-snap,
        sting the latest offender.

Don’t know when this tongue
    might bust my teeth
        cursing someone out—

shrapnel the stray bits
    in the listener’s skull
        after years of saying nothing

to insults of your hair
    feels like steel wool
        T-Hunt saying I don’t swim

in the chocolate river

    when he told me he wasn’t
        attracted to Black girls and

folks always placing The Beatles
        above Stevie Wonder—
              have they even listened
                     to Songs in the Key of Life?

Dear Heavenly Father,

In the six years since graduation
        I’ve only ventured past Dick’s
                two or three times.

Ain’t got no posse
          to back me up
                  if shit goes sideways.

I still remember my first day.
       How my skeleton tried to crawl
               out my skin on the bus

when Broadway turned into 10th,
        almost made its way past my lips
                but yo-yoed back

as the bus screeched to a stop on Miller.
       How I told myself it was first-day nerves.
               How I still do even though they lingered

past the second day and the second year
       and the last day of class,
               these bones one step closer

to abandoning this skin every day.
       How I prayed no one would test me,
               ask So where do you live?

Dear Heavenly Father,

I still call the way my hands tremble and tense up

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Contributor Notes

Malcolm Friend is a poet and CantoMundo fellow originally from the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. He received his BA from Vanderbilt University, where he was the 2014 recipient of the Merrill Moore Prize for Poetry, and is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also the recipient of a 2014 Talbot International Award and Backbone Press’s 2016 Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including La Respuesta magazine, the Fjords Review’s Black American Edition, Vinyl, Word Riot, The Acentos Review, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, and Pretty Owl Poetry.