Say Monsio Kamara,
That be the thin’ about you,
She leaps from the mattress,
Your poetry English,
I listen to yu stuff, makes hootaz me cry,
I come to yu readings, Fridays, Six O’clock
T’get me a little cultcha, ya know.
All me get is a little more tears.
I apologize, I say.
Say Kamari, memba mi tell yu,
they won’t never put ya stuff in the papers,
not even in ’em funnies.
Or nothing ’round these woods, she says.
Maybe in Kuvuki Land, somewhere far,
Yu can be rich and famous, your papa be king.
But tis be New York, baby,
Up here, folks want the happy’s,
Them’a read them comics and sports pages,
Them lottery numbers and cafe boards,
Yaa’ know, that kyiand of thing.
But forget about all that baby,
Tonight We gon’ dance,
Dance wid me, Mr. Kamara,
Dance wid yaa’ hotaz Lola, my love,
Get uf ya bum, show me how them Africans do it.
C’mon, get off your fackin’ lazy bum for once.
Tomorrow night, tomorrow let’s do that, I say.
You be such a dyonkey man, she says.
Yes, yes, tomorrow I will be full of surprises.
She knocks the radio down with a swat,
Dead batteries come off, radio time is 88:88,
Mint cigarette crackles low,
Blue smoke spread across the ceiling.
A noose round the fan.
Read me samthin then, she says.
It’s too late for nonsense.
She floats round the room, naked, jiggly, Lilith, a bitten Styrofoam cup between her teeth,
Touching things, she rattles a jar of hospital pens to her ears,
Her breasts rattle, too.
She drops a chain of keys.
Kicks a spilling laundry bag.
Dance wid me Kam, c’mon,
Sit your ass down,
Sweet mother of Amadioha!
Say Kammy, you’re like a fucking dragonfly.
The foreigners in the next room giggle, stomp,
A TV show that takes the sting away, sneezes.
She picks up a handful of crumbled paper, hmm.
Her head knocks the swinging bulb, loose.
You’re going to fucking kill yourself in here, I say.
She starts to read, a terrible line in pencil,
Dodging the swinging bulb, on occasion,
What be this word here?
— pre-, presci-something.
Well, that’s why that poem had to die, I say.
Write me a real, long one Kam.
I write for fools, if fools can’t read me,
then we are no different.
Mint cigarette dangles, smoke in my eyes.
You know, I hater them big words, she says.
Them big words be like smelling ya own damn hampits,
Such a fuckin’ show-off.
The other writers are already dead sweetheart,
Nothing you can do for them now, I say.
She whispers her bad reading, tinks:
Damn, this man be some god of some unusual wow,
Good grief, you writer them sad stuff, Me love it.
You writer such pain from inna the heart,
I know this typa pain, her wisdom purrs.
I understand pain from inna the heart baby, she says again.
Say Monsio Kamara, ya’ red eyes, them’a tell me mad things,
Many men I know have that kiand of red eyes, me say.
That’s what being a man is all about
where I’m from — red eyes for the win.
So tell me about it,
Tell you about what?
Tell me about ya’ red eyed people,
Is it the wife wid the poom-poom problem?
Yaa’ ugly crawny man? What Africa really be like?
She collapses into bed, knocking pillows and pillboxes out of place.
The river in her stomach rumbles.
Ha, you hear that? Lola stay hungry.
Me gwan die from hunger, loving up a poetry man!
But you can’t teach an old prostitute new tricks,
Not when a working thing has fruited,
Not when her life has bested yours in misery.
Not when you write manuscripts for her son thru his night school at Brooklyn Mass,
Not when she pays in kind at 2am, and she calls you, Monsio Kamara.
I keep a key under the KEEP IT MOVING mat,
She shoves a gallon of orange juice in the yellow fridge on Wednesdays,
I get brown eggs from the Pradesh Pradesh grocery store.
Not when good writing is loved badly,
It is the same reason people die and make the news,
It’s the same reason a child strangulates on curtain string.
It is why I am marooned with Lola.
Write me a poem, Monsio Kam.
I ain’t no poet.
Poets are dogs from hell you know.
Then what be you?
A muser – I write musings.
You aint neva gon’ make it in this city.
She has that demeanor of a weed-whacker.
I inhale, take a sip of my tobacco chemistry,
Wisdom from the red smudge lips of Lola,
I imagine my death on a New York street,
You should consult the master’s great, I say.
Those ones will undo you, I say.
By the way, who are the writing gods of New York? I ask her. She nearly chokes.
Gads? There ain’t no gads! Some chump from Brooklyn or Manhattan?
There be writers like rats here, she says
Millions, billions of them,
There be a bald Nigerian man like you,
Who read wid him high accent inna the Yellow Coven on 58th.
He stay to sign them book covers, she says.
He best stay out of my way then, I say.
Write me a poem, honey child, she begs.
Or me fit set this here curtain on fyah.
I don’t write for the likes of you,
I write for dogs, are you one?
Good grievous, even though me shame tree be dead,
you woulda fuckin’ luv up on that, wouldn’t you?
Me, somma typa bingo, right on? God damn pervert.
She says, flogging a pillow to shape.
Faces in broken windows,
Small refugee eyes in dark verandas,
That kind of nonsense,
I write for those ones.
You a strange strange maad animal,
You mighta well make it in them city after all,
This gladdens me, somewhat.
She turns around, says,
Write me a poem wid me name inna it melody.
Please, Monsio Kamara.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth — No!
I have to take a piss.
She grabs my hand, breathe easy
Not after you promise to writer me one poem wid me name in it.
Fine, I’ll write your fucking poem, Christ.
Don’t say fuckin’ honey, you say it weird,
Trust me, you bring out my best.
“Whatever Lola wants, she gets”,
I start with a pencil on the back of an invoice.
I write her a quick one,
Five thunderous lines,
“Oh, ye shadow woman, green eyes thus beautifully gleams,”
“Something with rainbows and flowers and bees,”
And then a powerful conclusion.
“Sweet wine, she drips.”
“For a savage come far from dreams.”
I hand her the love letter.
I tell her not to spend it all in one place.
She glows, flogs another pillow.
As I piss and smoke turns my eyes, I think:
Nobody’s gon’ read you, Monsio Kamara.
You might die cold and lonely come Christmas,
That bald Nigerian beat you to it.
I know this, you know this.
There’s truth on enemy lips,
And liars make good friends too,
Jump off a roof, stay useless and cool.
Lola snores, fast asleep now,
You never know in sleep,
The magic she’s made of awake,
I look out the window, hands in deep pockets,
A little calm, I see shoes and feet, bright walking shoes go by, fast walking, slow waking, floating,
Nothing by shoes, then two wheels.
The radio starts itself,
Josh Krajcik is bleeding a soul,
His lover has done him in.