I wrote this a few years ago after a kind of “coming of age” moment I never expected. Black History Month celebrates a number of people who have improved the quality of living for Blacks and many other groups through doing that, people who were courageous enough to have a number of difficult conversations. In celebrating that spirit…

 

21 inna Babylon

1

I’m 21

My first night out as a man

Sitting in the backseat of a car with my uncle and his friends

When he asks me:

“Have you bought your first prostitute yet?”

He chuckles

& a grin spreads across his cheeks that shows as much of his teeth as his chauvinism

 

2

I’m entering club Babylon

My first glimpse into a world where a woman’s chest size supersedes college credentials

The men aren’t schoolteachers, but they all want to give her the #2 pencil

There’s a new girl on stage

Stepping in for a dancer who’s been missing for two weeks

Last seen leaving with two customers

A room full of single men and single mothers

Perfume & cigar smoke spread between them like lust

A few years ago

The money made her come

Nowadays the cash causes premature ejaculations

When she counts it in her hands it’s like masturbating

Money-talk is the only way to get a conversation

Conversing with Satan and all her demons

A dark room full of demeaning activity

The energy in here is thick

Like her thighs

She asks me:

“So, you think you can handle this?”

(Holding in all her cannabis)

“You know this isn’t for amateurs — I can make you a man with it…”

She huffs out smoke and smiles

But it takes more than heavy mascara and a few lines of cocaine

To mask the pain in her eyes

Her inner thighs like dinner plates

Serving dinner to guys who pay the price

 

3

My uncle laughing in the backseat

Like something is funny

Sorrows swimming through glasses of Belvedere

Women wait to exhale in here

Men want it all for sale in here

I can’t hear what my uncle say

I can’t hear what my uncle say

21 in a Babylon

I must make my own way

 

Durel Crosby Sankofa | durel.crosby@yale.edu