The Family Solid

We were barely out

of middle school

when Stuart showed me the scar—

an S branded in his brown arm.

Solid, Stuart said,  fresh

from his initiation.

They held him down

in a basement, seared his skin.


He wanted another family.

One that encouraged his want

for the blood of possibility,

that heart-pumping rage

that wraps us in a noose,

impossible to untie.


We have ties to Bloods.

I didn’t need that family,

had heard enough stories

about my father,

how when I was seven

months old, three men came to his home

in Inglewood. He pleaded

with them to let his mother,

girlfriend and son go before

they did whatever

they were going to do.


When Stuart told me

My niggas can hold me down,

the image of him in darkness,

pinned by three strangers,

burned into my mind.

Like the white-hot needle

as it pierces skin.


The ending, I no longer

remember, but the desire died

and he escaped. Surprising,

I know, but black kids

find a way out without

getting locked up or put down.


Years later, he’d absently rub

his scarred skin like an itch.

The S on his bicep

lingering above the blood.

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