Toni Asante Lightfoot


14th & U POEM
for the gentrified everywhere

used to be a place
yo momma wouldn't a been
caught dead.

before then it was a place
where jelly roll morton
got stabbed.

artists lived here
turned dumps into trends
whore houses into clubs

corners once reserved for black men
now be dressed by sidewalk cafes
owned by men with porcelain hands

but for now there's one last bowtied man
with a bean pie in one hand
pushin a final call with the other



riots break out
new word for
mourners is

don't get new

they take
their leave
clean their guns
welcomed back

take aim again



they asked me why is it jazz
cuz it is what is was
if you know what i mean

if you can dig whores spritzing jassmine
musicians giving them something to shake it too
johns dancing they way outta money between thighs

then why not name Negro music
the smell of sex
on a new orleans night

who will listen to two niggahs scream
unless it comes packaged as a concert
like miles' trumpet yelling to coltrane's sax

it's jazz
cuz it is what it was
the only tunnel out of america


Aimee Jackson
Black Spring 1998, 8.5"x 14 3/4"
see more of Aimee Jackson's work




Crystal was 9
white confirmation
dress on her mind

she wanted it made
like her sisters'
from her mother's hands

but they had money now
wanted to show the church
they could afford the store

hecht's would let them look
hecht's would let them wait in line
hecht's would let them buy

mommy can i try this on?

there's still pain
even when the knife
is expected

the dress came home
never leaving the hanger
it looked so nice on

satin impresses all at home
bows are lovely on young ladies
all Crystal remembers is

it didn't fit



what do you say
when your brain will implode
if you begin

i have always gotten over
my good looks made women
and white men hunt me like scouts

boston was an underground railroad station
guess i wasn't supposed to see daylight
darkness and silence is what i get and give here

dirt roads of home showed me
what they would do to a man
one they didn't want to need

they don't pay me to be nice
i hit balls over the green monster
and bring my teammates home safe

no one spoke to me for weeks
but the globe exclaimed attitude
when i didn't mumble humble

this town smashed in a six year old's head
with a coke bottle last week because the law said
he had to go to school with his enemy

what am i supposed to say
he was innocent cute black SIX!
no comment? no comment.

no one hears me when i speak
my accent is deep south carolina
might as well be yoruba here

what to say
when speaking it
could get my brains blown out

or make me pick up a bat outside the fenway
drive my points home
is this what you wanted to hear?


Toni Asante Lightfoot spends time traveling to find stories that she can loosely weave poems around. Lightfoot is a graduate of Cave Canem African American Writer's Workshop and a teacher of writing workshops. This whirlwind of a woman is co-founder of the poetry collective the Modern Urban Griots. She is a leader in the national arts organization, Blackout Arts Collective.

Published in Volume 2, Number 4, Fall 2001.

Read more by this author:
Toni Asante Lightfoot: Guest Editor, It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue, Vol. 10:3 (Summer 2009)
Toni Asante Lightfoot: Tenth Anniversary Issue