March Forth - for Jay Bernard(‘jay’ is also slang for marijuana)

My friend Jay likes her birth date. She says its a call to action: March 4th.

Her dread locks are loose tower blocks, forehead for sky, her nose: a shrouded figure,

a dude speeding by, back packed with sketch books and gas masks, jeans patched

more times than he’s matched sticks to spliffs. He is a loose hoodied slouch with spray cans,

crouched in a train yard, headphoned and nodding hard to lyrics so deep it digs back

to the African forest where it started, back to talking drums. Now, they talk in drum

patterns, scattered in urban forests: rappers pattered tones riff against bars

just like spray cans whiff against walls, both birth brilliance, coupled in this dark

before radio crackles and rail guards mark his presence - it’s clearly time to go

he packs bag and coasts: a winged shadow floats past yellow lines, glides over railings,

air vents. The clouds cry. A poverty stricken kitten skips the sprinkled streets, litter

glitters pave-stones, pavement splits into a doorway, he enters, out breaths a beat,

door shuts with such finality it stops his existence:

He never pressed a nozzle to color walls, the rapper’s vocals never colored bars.

It’s a blasphemous silence, it unravels talking drums, jazz, blues, baselines,

black music - never strummed, trapped in the fingernails of a slave, so stitched,

he won’t tap for nuthin’, won’t twitch for shit, and the unplayed guitar riff

like ghost graffiti, leaks from his heart, and dies.

Jay, I once smoked your name and glimpsed what might’ve been

had no one courage enough to march forth, make canvas of walls, and music of bars.

Wisps of it phantom roads in potholes and hide in the hush of a rapper’s flow.

I nod to brave such breaks in hip hop and pray that the beat don’t stop.