poem: when the tape runs out

Approximately 100 years from now, following nuclear catastrophe, archaeologists stumble upon a buried tape recorder. Inside they find a tape. Upon administrative approval, one of them presses ‘play’.

This was supposed to be a mixtape
we had it all planned out
we’d read the graffiti on the walls
and knew the sky was finally falling down
we weren’t really that upset about it
we weren’t interested in politic
we hoped our art would do the job
we kept telling ourselves that presidents still listened

to mixtapes, drew their wisdom from underground,
we read in our scriptures that kings rise from the ghetto
so we always figured somewhere somehow one of us
would rise, send the world’s nova into remission
but this time we waited too long, we allowed one war too loud,
and now we’re in a bomb shelter,

we’re starving, scrapping for scraps,
’til one of us said: we gotta leave some kinda record, a fuck you to history.
So we were gonna make a mixtape,
we had it all planned out but somewhere somehow somebody fucked up.
Didn’t find the record store before it was looted.
Half of us running around crying ’cause we can’t find our Biggie.
U2 was quiet as Left Eye;

the closest we got to Jeff Buckley was the rainwater leaping off a leaf
onto the skull of a rottweiler, but that dog was long dead, and the flies
pushed us back ’til we staggered on Wall Street’s ledge.
Thank god

we could still ration out our weed.
We made it last longer than our mommas could a dollar.
In the sky Aaliyah was always flyin’, only flyin’,

we swear this was a mixtape, we beatboxed the whole thing,
Rahzel laid it down like throat cancer was a straight 808,
like Gil Scott-Heron just borrowed Jesse’s face

the beatbox was the basement for the a capella voices
and b-girl bodies, spinning in a bomb shelter,
we rocked our favorite hits three nights straight,
giving the sick a soundtrack to die to,
only half of us believed in God but the party was too hot,
too revolt, too railroad,

we couldn’t find MJ but the floor kept moving
we couldn’t find our Biggie, but we was still ready to die,
I swear this was a mixtape, but you can’t duplicate
the DJ in the—the DJ in the—

forgive the silence
that whole time we weren’t talking
we were too busy fuckin’
our very bodies were a mixtape,
heavy sweat of Los Angeles, that violent 1989.

When this tape is done, write down with pride that we’re dead,
write that we swallowed the bullet
and coughed up a boombox,

tell your kids about Spike Lee,
tell ’em about Do The Right Thing,
tell ’em your grandaddy was Radio Raheem,

tell ’em our last words were not about a mixtape,
but a record store trash can flying into glass.

I swear this was a mixtape,
we just didn’t know how to make it
somewhere this was a mixtape
the DJ was wai—


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