Young Black Superhero

 

for Uncle Richwood

 

When I was seven

And you were mostly grown

You were the finest man I’d ever seen–

Tall like your daddy, Washington,

Called Wash

Swagger like Billie D in Mahogany

(Before Denzel in Malcolm X)

Copper skin glowing like a new penny

On fresh swept pavement

A suit-dressed action-figure

In a butter-colored Fiat . . .

 

I used to wait for you

When my school let out

Across the street . . .

I would stand

So close to the window

Of your daddy’s funeral polar

That the two white barrettes riding high on my afro

Clanked against the glass

 

Richard Haywood

Rich + wood

Called “Uncle”

Cause you were so much older

Called “Friend”

Cause you were just that cool

 

I never told you how mad I was

That you became the family “don’t do” fable—

That you shrank yourself small enough

To fit inside a liquor bottle

And stayed there

Long enough

To get corked and shelved

You were too brilliant to end up dusty

You were supposed to be the next black super hero

Like Shaft and Ali

Not the “don’t be like” that lingered over James, Brain and me

Throughout our young adulthood

 

Maybe you couldn’t help it

Being raised in the funeral business and all . . .

 

My school closed down

The old funeral home did too

Other things changed

Why Couldn’t you

Just be

That black superhero?

Couldn’t you

Just be?

 

I didn’t look

At the guy

In the box

After you died

Pretending to be you

I never really looked

At the guy

Who kept coming to Thanksgiving dinner

Looking less and less like you

Over the years

either

I wish had

 

Next Thanksgiving

I’m gonna empty a pack of cigarettes on the fine china

Douse it with rum

Set it on fire

And call it flambé

That’s the fancy name people call

Bright, sweet things that burn out quickly

 

I never have smoked

And didn’t touch a drink until 21

Because of you

You always looked at me real tender at Thanksgiving

“Hey little Cuz”

and usually gave me an “I love you”

before the meal was through

I know I said it back

but what I meant to say

Was. . .

You were my first black super hero

In your own way

You kept me safe

And

I just want to thank you.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

We Need Your Help!

Illustration by Cosmo Whyte

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9 other followers

%d bloggers like this: