On Jukeboxes     

 

 

the ones on sheridan ave stopped playing motown in the fall once the frat boys found out they could drink for cheap & stumble down the block loud & pulsating with the night the way our fathers used to when this side of town was still thick with their fingerprints & so we take the cash we won over on the johnson park courts, where jason ain’t missed a jump shot since his big brother got outta prison & we go to the quik mart to buy some quarter water that don’t quench anything except our desire to be black & young & spend the money we earned with our own sweat (& I think something about that is also black) & our parents ain’t seen us since morning stretched over the hood & all these decaying rooftops but we still hop in tyler’s mama’s ford & go down to sheridan ave to see the old head who sits outside monk’s bar with a newport forever swinging from his bottom lip so low it defy gravity & for the right price, he been known to sing whatever marvin gaye song he’s sober enough to remember & so we take what change we got left & put it in his cup & he starts in on some marvin & the words “brother, brother, brother / there’s far too many of you dying” crawl out from his lips & grow legs & a whole body right there on the sidewalk & it wraps itself around us & jason is bent over & heaving & I try not to look & tell myself that it’s because we played eight games straight earlier & summer came through the hood this year & decided to stay too long & wear out its welcome like tyler’s grandma in his family’s 2 bedroom apartment but that’s why he been staying at my crib lately & I think to tell my boys we should go back there before we run into midnight & the questions that come with it & before I can say anything some capital university kids run up & take the old head’s change cup & run away yelling this side of town ain’t for you people anymore & when I get accepted there in the winter, me & jason stop talking

 

 

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. He is the poetry editor at Muzzle Magazine, and a Callaloo creative writing fellow. His first collection of poems, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, is being released in 2016 by Button Poetry/Exploding Pinecone Press.

 

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