Dr. Feelgood: “You ain’t got nothing on me.”
Danny: “I got handcuffs on you.” (Colors, 1988)

High Top won’t last. Killer-Bee, played by Leon, is banging Rocket’s lady
When the police come in. Crowbars crowd the door. Crowds.

Have you seen the pictures of Fred Hampton’s mattress, his body
And those spotted boxers? How did Deborah and that baby survive? 

After midnight, T-Bone breaks into a department store, wearing a shower cap
And an adult diaper just to dry hump a stuffed bunny. Read PCP.

Then everyone wants Pacman dead. And how long has Robert Duvall lived?
These red-blooded Americans. That look of disappointment on our white

Father’s face, an Allfather, an Odin, is like watching a body split half open,
An egg, Good Grief, says Charlie Brown, that crack should make me laugh.

I remember I wanted to act harder, as if I could form a callus on the inside
Of my skin. I’ve thought the most violent thoughts about Tony Hoagland, who

Didn’t know me. His 26 bodies trapped in one metallic body, thumping 
At the walls, which I imagine is the music of sweat, and those men boiling

Inside our protagonist’s head. Louisa, rolling up her stockings after sleeping
With Sylvester. Pacman acting nauseous, as if they’d touched through her body.

“What kind of an animal would shoot up a church” is a loaded question. Don
Cheadle was trying to make a living, but what the hell happened to Jeff Spicoli?

Basquiat dating Madonna before she married Sean Penn, then Penn makes
This movie when Jean-Michel is almost dead. Oh, The Eighties: decade of hunger, 

Of blind exits, escape routes, dotted walks. Long afternoons at the corner store,
Stacking quarters, playing until my wrist hurt, those hours outrunning ghosts.

Amaud Jamaul Johnson is the author of Darktown Follies and Red Summer. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry, his honors include a Pushcart Prize, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, and the Dorset Prize. His work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, Narrative Magazine, and Best American Poetry. He teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His new book, Imperial Liquor, is forthcoming from the Pitt Poetry Series (Spring 2020).

Cover photo by Noom Peerapong