Poetry and Arts

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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