Rajah Reid

4-1-0

Granddad hit the track again
and bought lil’ sis and I a slurpee
Ma says he gambles all his money away
but when he wins, he treats us
like I imagine a father would
and suddenly summer has forgotten
itself. Sweat rolled off a plastic cup cools
better than my body
or the window a/c older than memories of heat-
heavy Baltimore
summers. Granddad left and the day has remembered
to be sap drooling down the chin of worn wood.
There is nothing better to do than go outside or
watch Jerry Springer, so, we watch
and learn to speak American dysfunction.
Ma won’t be home from work ‘til 6 so the day is ours
to waste. We find fun in the smallest
injuries and of course I am the dark
one and she is the round one. One push
too hard and one of us is falling off the sofa and ma
is coming home with that look
like, whoever ain’t hurt might lose they life
or at least a smooth patch of skin so now
we both straining our eyes for tears hoping that the
prelude to a bruise is enough. But ma
came home with that look like the world
sitting on her shoulders a little
too heavy. Cousin Wayne got locked up
again and now nobody feels
like cooking out for the
fourth and all I wanted this
summer was to eat burgers and go
see the fireworks fulgurate
the downtown skyline and know that
flashing lights don’t mean somebody got shot.
and pops don’t mean somebody got shot.
and now all I have is this dry 7/11
cup reminding me that my body
can’t produce enough wet
to make summer forget it ain’t summer
unless one of us gets stolen.

I am a black, queer writer and poet based in Brooklyn.