las estages of blackness
by Alan Pelaez
I’m going back again—boarded.
My heart, full of love, but stomach—
it’s a heavy sickness. I want to call it
Black Stomach Sickness,
but that may be too much, or maybe not.
Symptoms of Black Stomach Sickness:
Symptom One—Being Brown, or more dangerous, Black;
Symptom Two—Walking on the street with headphones------careful!
Symptom Three— Living in the hood, da projects;
Symptom Four—Too much police, too much circulation;
Symptom Five— Police buying girls from your building for sex;
Symptom Six— The judge at your local court, assaulting Maria, the one from
outside your window at East 138th;
Symptom Seven—You have just found blood all over the blue elevator door
at your apartment complex (all that’s left are the 50 stars) on Madison Ave, as you step on broken Heineken bottles all over the stairwell.
Black Stomach Sickness (noun), Definition One—
the feeling a Black Boi gets when he
visits best Home Girl in the hood at 125th Harlem.
At arrival, heart’s at ease, it feels like home, but she worried,
she tell him he must not get too comfortable,
a lot has changed
Black Stomach Sickness (noun), Definition Two—
Falling asleep at ten pi-em,
gunshots wake you up,
bullet hits ground floor.
Black Stomach Sickness (noun), Definition Three—
You’ve parked on the left side of the street,
you must now face what happens to the building at night,
and explain to your 2 year-old niece that the holes on the wall
are shelters for homeless bees, as you hope
there is no drive-by until you are back inside, safe.
Black Stomach Sickness (noun), Definition Four—
the feeling you get after she tells you
no one will hire her because she Brown
because her address gives it away, she from the hood
no more address from White Country Club University.
She not girl who makes it
She not girl who’s supposed to make it
She not girl with the American name
She not girl who should have a career
She not girl who ‘worked-for-what-she-has’
Black Stomach Sickness (noun), Definition Five—
an obtuse feeling on the stomach
that makes you faint, your body,
hitting the cracked sidewalks that City Hall will not fix cause
you a problem
‘cause, you a commodity
‘cause, you an animal
‘cause you a jungle animal
‘cause you a misfed, raving, jungle animal,
‘cause you Blaq.
Black Stomach Sickness (noun), Definition Six—
a tired body trying not to drown in organized crime.
a tired body trying not to buy the coke the NYPD is selling on their break.
a tired body trying to avoid the gun the NYPD is selling at 50% discount.
a tired body trying to work 65+ hours to afford community college.
a tired body keeping the mouth closed when manager clocks it out 3 hours before the body leaves work.
a tired body living in a neighborhood with more fast-food restaurants than a grocery store with affordable food.
a tired body walking 3 miles, takes train for one hour and seventeen minutes, waits ten minutes at bus stop, takes bus for nine minutes, gets off, walks 1 mile, body is home.
a tired body, tired of surviving.
Perhaps, Black Stomach Sickness
is too radical, too academic, too literal.
How about I call it:
Waiting for justice.
I wonder what will happen, when I go back to da hood,
resume address changes;
first name mistaken as American,
last name becomes un-hyphened.
this boi not supposed to make it.
I hope we make it—
contributor 2016 second edition
Alan Pelaez Lopez is a formerly undocumented, queer, Black Mexican migrant living in the bay area. They design jewelry, write poetry and non-fiction essays, and attend graduate school at UC Berkeley.