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


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



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



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