Quraysh Ali Lansana is author of five poetry books, three textbooks, a children’s book, editor of eight anthologies, and coauthor of a book of pedagogy. He is Associate Professor of English/Creative Writing at Chicago State University, where he served as Director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing from 2002-2011. Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy & Social Justice in Classroom & Community (with Georgia A. Popoff) was published in March 2011 by Teachers & Writers Collaborative and was a 2012 NAACP Image Award nominee. mystic turf, a collection of poems, was released in October 2012 by Willow Books. The poems published here in Hyperlexia appear in his chapbook, Reluctant Minivan (Living Arts Press, 2014).
language echoing itself.
itself, echoing language
echoing language itself.
language, itself echoing
what i heard them say
say what? them, i heard.
heard them. what i say?
i say what them heard.
i mean these words
these words i mean.
mean these i words.
words mean: these, i.
why don’t you hear me?
me you don’t hear. why?
hear me, why don’t you?
you don’t? why? hear me.
you make me angry
angry you make me
make me angry: you
you angry. make me.
in my head i’m not alone.
alone, i’m not in my head.
head, i’m not in my alone
i’m in my head. not alone.
In life, there’s the beginning and the end. The beginning don’t matter. The end don’t matter. All that matters is what you do in between – whether you’re prepared to do what it takes to make change.
John Carlos, 1968 Olympic Bronze Medalist
not mexico city, sunny southside
afternoon. three hundred athletes in neon
tees at football stadium with no lights.
they approach the line, pause and release
softball. lands with pomp & plod, applause
tape measure and clipboard tally distance.
grass unaware of unimaginable feet
i sprint to hug my olympian, trudge
over, around competitors all buzzing
victors this bright and everyday.
ari mounts the podium like everest
giggles when his name is loud
lowers his head, red and blue ribbon
around his neck. gold, no mineral imbalance
here. then right arm, raised fist
in front of maple tree, god & creation
his impulse, unedited verse, truth
and the unexplainable joy in between.
ari was in the backseat
of a squad car by the time
i arrived from class, tumblers
painting “the nine” midnight red, blue
red. annoyed butch sista next
door on my stoop, talking how she
could raise my son better, dcfs
already on way. rushing past
i thank her smugly, that she found
him wandering south on evans
mama’s weary too deep. two
locks, two flights of stairs & two doors
then wildlife search for lost anaconda
diego and baby jaguar at his heels.
they knew something we lacked.
tired daycare staff said anti-social
not behavior. he plays alone mostly
and enjoys hide and seek, the campus
labyrinth half a football field in size.
no one saw the buddyless boy join
a group walk down the long hall
past administrators and security.
out of door, handholders turn right
ari forward across drive, parking lot
his head lower than hood ornaments.
police spot him near cafeteria, a three
year old undergraduate darting back
to dorm for snack between class. they lose
him in square corridors, endless doors.
twenty minutes later i retrieve message
from office line, cell phone on file, on hip.
gunfire and house arrest family
across street led us across town.
teen sons in age for what you on
nigga we found pacific heights in
chicago, playground down the block.
first weekend ari is nocturnal study
new quest, fresh terrain. we are
sprawling search party, hectic moonlight.
four lane, three blocks away, neighbor
spies him at intersection, calls police. bolts
and chains on doors next day too low.
fire escape invites back gate missing
two by four, alley eye open to last night’s