Abdul Ali

On Passing (or Notes toward a Manifesto)

In a dream, a young Baraka slaps five with my father.

They ask when I last got some pussy or whooped

someone’s ass? On one side of the street are the black poets

(their closed memberships, spider-fingered hand-shakes,

invitation-only parties) tossing my journal with my father—

Bullshit, Bullshit, Bullshit!     I’m soft-spoken. He’s bullhorn.

I believe in breaths. We’re both sensitive. I do not deserve

to be his son. I didn’t suffer like my father. Don’t fit in

any boxes with bars. Never served time (except once at Bellevue

for 17 days). I retreat in ambiguity. Live between the lines.

Prefer shadow to light. I do girl push-ups. Write on the mirror

with my mother’s lipstick. I’m nothing like my father.

I spend my recesses reading When the People Could Fly,

Black Skin, White Masks, & Metamorphosis. I visit Harlem

with my 35mm in search of jazzmen. I’m paranoid. My palms

stay moist. Long before I wake from this dream, there’s your voice

& Baraka’s, the broken limbs ghosting our family tree, you

and Baraka mouthing to me:  This life. . . is a . . relay . . race . . . 

and in a single hand motion—Catch!  And that look on your faces.

The pause. The lean in. The reveal.




“On Passing (or Notes toward a Manifesto) is from Trouble Sleeping (New Issues Press, 2015).