Two Poems by Michael Dowdy

Confession of a Rap Fanatic

They turned me out in mama’s mini-van. 
Maroon with bucket seats and tinted glass,  
her Astro bounced from Boom! to Bap! 
                                                    I slammed 
unlaced Adidas kicks at lust, I gave that blast
the gas face, gave it rhyme. No Kleenex mess.
No rubber lubed with shame. No awkward pleas.
Just earlobes hot as asphalt black and fast
below the whitewalls, Walkman pumping beats 
by Big Daddy Kane and Roxanne Shanté.  
Staccato, hard as chassis, freestyle raps
in contraband cassettes released my legs 
              from shackles. 
                           Naw, for real, from pale syntax.  
When couplets struck a fuse inside my lungs
the breaths stuck fast got loose in pounding drums.

Sucker MCs

How we conjured Kangols 
and chains fat as forearms

from hoops and hunger 
was our fathers’ cross to bear.

We slammed crowbar names 
through drywall psalms— 

Kool G. Rap, Doug E. Fresh,
Prince Paul, Terminator X.

A zombie X hollered back 
from rednecks’ cotton tees—

You wear your X, I’ll wear mine.
Malcolm groaned in his grave. 

We tagged boasts and dozens 
on notebooks and milk cartons,

shaving rap’s nomenclature 
in our domes. I was Pale King.

After the age of crack and Yo!
the old school came too soon

and Puff Daddy’s rococo 
demo’d our crates of rage.

We answer now to names—

born-again, crackhead, banker,
teacher, father, six-feet-under—

we once dubbed Sucker MCs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMichael Dowdy grew up in Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains and teaches at Hunter College in New York City. He has published a chapbook (The Coriolis Effect) and received a Pushcart Prize nomination. His poems have appeared in Appalachian Journal, Blueline, Broad River Review, Crab Orchard Review, J Journal, Kestrel, Pembroke Magazine, and Town Creek Poetry, among other places. His study of Latino poetry (Broken Souths: Latina/o Poetic Responses to Neoliberalism and Globalization) will be published by the University of Arizona Press in November. His website is here.