Somebody go & ask Biggie to orate
what’s going down in the streets.
No, an attitude is not a suicide note
written on walls around the streets.
Twitter stays lockstep in the frontal lobe
as we hope for a bypass beyond the streets,
but only each day bears witness
in the echo chamber of the streets.
Grandmaster Flash’s thunderclap says
he’s not the grand jury in the streets,
says he doesn’t care if you’re big or small
fear can kill a man on the streets.
Take back the night. Take killjoy’s
cameras & microphones to the streets.
If you’re holding the hand lightning strikes
juice will light you up miles from the streets
where an electric chair surge dims
all the county lights beyond the streets.
Who will go out there & speak laws
of motion & relativity in the streets?
Yusef, this morning proves a crow
the only truth serum in the street.
— Yusef Komunyakaa
Poet Yusef Komunyakaa was born in Louisiana. His early and mid-career work was shaped by his childhood in the American South, his love of jazz and blues, and his tour of duty during the Vietnam War. He once noted that poetry is “a way of expanding and talking around an idea or a question. . . . more actually gets said through such a technique than a full frontal assault.” His recent poetry engages themes of racism and the U.S. justice system. Komunyakaa is currently Global Distinguished Professor of English at NYU.
[Research note: Yusef Komunyakaa, The Emperor of Water Clocks (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015); Radiclani Clytus, Ed., Blue Notes: Essays, Interviews and Commentaries (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000)]