NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire V. 16.1 - Page 87

The guy on the train is trying to get past me, and the one on the platform is standing in the door jam with his hand on his pistol preventing the train doors from being closed. I’m standing up there saying to both of them to hold on a minute. I got my hand on a piece of steel in my pocket, feeling it’s edge, metal and firm there between me and eternity. I have both eyes on the kid in the door with his hand on the pistol butt, and I’m thinking how this is strictly non-fiction! He said, “The Klan ain’t in my ‘hood!” Everybody is talking at the same time. The babies are crying louder, and the two Mexican women are speaking Spanish faster than two Jim rabbits in season can make a litter. I’m telling everybody to calm down and just hold on a minute. Stay outta this, o.g! This our business and you ain’t in it,” the kid with his hand on the gun-butt tells me. “You got nothin’ to do with this.” I’m pointing to the crying children in strollers now, “Bullshit!” I said. “Y’all got me in a sandwich here, n’ that puts me in it! Can’t y’all see you got these poor li’l babies scared, man?” I’m watching his hand — firm there — on the pistol butt. There was a beat and a breath that followed it, but that was all I needed. “Listen, man, I’m going to tell you something,” I said, speaking as plain and as even as I could. Since I know this boy has got a gun, and it took him a long time to get this crazy. “You see, you guys got life all fucked up in your heads,” I’m speaking with my hands. ”You see, the Klan has gone and done a job on y’all.” The guy on the train with the pistol asked me if I didn’t see his credentials, meaning his hand there on the gun. “Oh, no! You wouldn’t do that,” I said. “You see, that’s too much like right. But here is a guy the same color as you, a guy you never laid eyes on in your life and you ready to shoot him dead here on the spot. You see? That’s what I mean when I say that you hate yourselves, that what you doing here is self-hatred. Feel me?” Two things happened at that moment. First, the kid looked as if he had been slapped awake from a sound sleep with a wet towel. Second, he slowly took two steps back onto the train platform. I’m thinking… …I got to keep myself out of the work — keep my writing simple, “objective” — all the myths and rationales that writers use for not understanding life. Things every writer thinks, the tiny unspoken deaths that never make it to the Obituary Page. The barbed wire salad that has every black writer in this country eatin’ iron and shittin’ steel. I need my head examined for living this way, “Breakfast of Champions” — who in the hell am I kidding? I’ve got to get myself a car, keep myself out of the work… The train is moving now. I’m shaken in the rock and sway of it. My head is spinning, but I regain my balance. I look out of the window and see the guy — still out there — still got his hand on the gun. I watch him vanish, as the train pulls off. I watch him and his friends passing, as the train rocks an awkward North. He and his friends are still flashing gang-signs, haranguing the other guy — who wanted to talk to me now — to get off the train. “I don’t want no conversation with you, man,” I said, as the kids in the strollers stopped crying, and their mothers tried to thank me. I walked past them to the back and into another train-car. This is useless information, I tell myself — make myself believe it — believe it right up to the point that I question the possibility that any of the teenagers involved could or ever read books? I concluded that whether the kid can read or not becomes irrelevant. Also, the answer, as to whether “we do not come to write better, because we do not come to read better” is irrelevant, if one is murdered on the way to the library. Is this hyperbole? Yes, we may believe this too — believe it until we do the body count. There were 656 homicides in Los Angeles in 2002, of which 271 were gang related and black on black murders. Derek Walcott’s writing never left my thoughts, as the train rocked. The next time so-called “Rap artist” steps up on stage hell bent for leather on spitting gratuitous violence. As he rolls his pant leg up to pick the scab from his Scar, he would do well to remember this. It is a mantra—an appetizer for the Hip-Hop Materialist, the Walking Ambitions of Post Modern Thug life… …“For some extra silver, under a sea-almond he shows them a scar made by a rusted anchor, rolling one trouser leg up with the rising moan of a conch. It has puckered like the corolla of a sea-urchin. He does not explain its cure. ‘It have some things,’ he smiles, ‘worth more than a dollar.’ ” n BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE I told him, “I mean you hate yourselves. There it is in Jasper, Texas, the Klan can tie brother Jim Byrd to the back of a pickup truck and drag him all around till his body brays all up, and his head comes off. Tell me, now. How come I don’t see you gone down there to put no gun on the Klan?” 85 I understand enough Spanish to hear that they are pleading for somebody to help them. Many of the passengers on the train are watching this, since the gunmen won’t let the doors close. Some have already quickly moved out of the way, since they can sense that somebody is about to get shot.