Trace DePass

When Black Men Want to Leave


we heard the asthmatic baby cry when the door shut. we heard the bullet shell and body drop at the same time from miles away. heard you; that he was too busy to finish [or start] the note left us. heard him complaining about how much he didn’t like it here. heard this place smelled like how his day went. that was the last time we heard from him. there’s a special kind of silence when black men leave. we all thought it was him being himself and that he’d reappear, like he always does. we all looked at each other, hoping we could pet a stray tear back to it’s duct, with words. but, we all struggled for something good enough to say. throats got heavy. you could swallow and drown in your own spit a few times when black men leave. mouths gape a whale’s wail and flood themselves. it tastes like nothing new. how there are so many things we could have said to make him stay that a mouth wouldn’t utter. if he only knew how much we wanted him home and happy and our black man. now, a gone one. here:

the dusk rained into dawn. none spoke. we were tired and still drowning, watching the pitter-patter move in on us. how water taunts us with it’s large bodies when we try to look for something beside ourselves. what a gluttonous God. looked so natural, it nearly made the son want to be just like his father as if to be taken/gone was a hereditary thing.


prayer of a gnostic theist. Jamaica, Queens. ‘97.

most high,

thank you

                  for the wake for the fifteenth

praise – how i’ve held on since the first;

how the check let the little nigga

keep his phone & his wallet with how it

brought me my package; the divinity in

the bread/ i broke      5 pound loaves.       

2 grand each –      the father, the son, &

                               the    need     to     eat.

praise

             product; the duffle for it’s many

compartments; the nigga that tried me,

and then ran away;   facts, that i ain’t

  have to kill today; the cold of youth,

  its role in the gun,

                                  each bullet that

kept a metal jacket up from the floor;

the boo who would reign with blunts

and with fingers, would call upon a crip

from any top step to a turnstile. & to

our bowman’s dominant eye,

may her hand

                need not to whistle

the soundtrack to a scene as this:

the corner, wherein the streetlights

serve as beacons for a foot soldier,

& his watch,

                  &   the candles stayed

after he left.   bless: his family.

                        bless: my son.

be: a fence

                 on his way from school.

may he walk with the calm of two

headphones in his ears &, god,

kiss the callous,

like a don,  

                    off his hands

  in the southside of Jamaica

smooth his pace. shine his teeth.

make him be a better man than i was

[if i die in the interim of silence

before we speak again, then…]

amen.


Residing in Queens, NY, Trace DePass is an alum of Urban Word NYC, juror and editor at the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and was the 2016 Teen Poet Laureate for the Borough of Queens. He received a National Gold Medal from Scholastic for his writing portfolio, “Black Boyhood,” wherein one piece was published in Scholastic’s Best Teen Writing of 2015. Trace is interested in curating conversations on black queer, non-binary masculinity through prose, poetry, & playwriting.