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Always in the Head

"I seen it lots of times, I seen it, just from being
on the street when something new was going down;
I seen kids get killed, a few, my buddy Jules
got bucked, this gang he was down with, I mean he
wasn't even down with them when they started
beefin' with this other gang, but one day, it was hot,
I remember it was real hot, somebody called Jules
and he opened the window and looked out and
they got him in the head; you know all the
time now you got to get 'em in the head,
gotta bust that brain, man, don't shoot
'em in the head most likely they won't die,
and if they don't die you might as well kill
yourself cause soon as they can stand up
they be stalkin' you big time, man, might as well
blow yourself away. Gotta bust that brain, man.
But you know what was funny, even the folks
Jules was down with didn't know who smoked him
cause they was beefin' with so many other gangs,
and then there was Billy, they jacked him big time,
took him out just for talkin' shit, acting like he was
down with brothers who didn't even know his ass,
cocking them colors wrong, and I'm sorry for laughing,
I know the shit ain't funny, but I was still looking to
see my boys hanging in the 'hood, jiving and scoping
the bitches, but then I saw them at the wake, laid out
man, lying stiff, skin two colors too light, wearing wigs
to hold their heads on and they mamas clawing at them
and screaming outside their heads for Jesus, then I knew
Jules and Billy wouldn't be hanging no more, but after
awhile you just deal with dying, you get cold with it.
It's like, 'Yo, man, somebody got their cap peeled last night,
you know who it was? Man, not him man, that's foul,
he was down, man, you going to the wake? No man,
can't make it, got a game, gotta kick some ass on the court.'
You just take in the word, you know, about somebody dying
and you deal with it, can't let it twist you round and
mess your head up cause then you let your guard down
and like I said before then you might as well kill yourself.
Me? I ain't sweatin' 'bout dying, I'm kickin' the right colors,
got my brim twisted proper. Sometimes it's even fun
hanging out at places most people are scared of,
like down at Dudley late at night, the game is not
knowing if you gon' be there when something goes down
and something always does. Somebody gets bucked and
hits the street and some folks will say 'Oh man, that's
too bad,' but almost everyone else will say 'Did you see
that guy get shot? That was live, man. Did you see how
he ran, how he fell, how he screamed like a girl?
they got him in the head, man, they busted that brain,
it was like the movies, man. He screamed like a fuckin' girl.' "

Tuesday, wind shakes the windows. No one is outside,
at least not that I can see, and my son pulls on
a second sweatshirt, a bulky goosedown coat. He is 15,
a year younger than Jules, a year older than the child
who saw Jules open the window
to answer to his name, to let in some air.

There are times I hate being a reporter.
I am afraid of the stories. The voices are too real,
the colors too strong.
I rewind the tape, open another computer file,
hear my son yell goodbye and slam the door
on his way out. I run to the window.
Yes. His head is covered.

Written by Patricia Smith


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