Four Poems by Jason McCall

Four Poems by Jason McCall



Friends pass you a link,

tell you there’s something


you need to hear, a video

you have to see. A few seconds


in and you recognize

the beat, recognize the hook


comes from a song your mom used

to hum in the kitchen while she waited


for the apple pie to cool.

And you turn it off, disappointed again,


tired of hearing the same song.

You know every myth


is a retelling, a sample

of the music that moved


your parents hips, no matter

how hard it is to imagine


your folks grooving at prom,

slow dancing with the lump


that will be your sister between them.

You know this song;


you don’t need to finish the first verse

to guess it begins with a black boy leaving


home too soon and ends with a father sad

for all the times to told the boy to stand up


and act like a man, a mother

begging to put her baby back in her body


instead of handing him over

to the earth.



Sidekick Funeral: John the Baptist


Every MC needs a hype man,

Chuck D had Flav.

Biggie had Diddy.

And Jesus had you

to get the crowds ready,

to make sure the world knew

new shit was on the way.

You never loved yourself

too much or fell in love

with the idea that you could go

solo. You knew it wasn’t about you;

it wasn’t even about Jesus


and the whole “son of God”

tagline. It was about the message,

about the music of a million knees

dropping to the earth and dropping

their burdens at your boy’s feet.

And that’s why the message had to live

even if the body was on the cross,

in a Galilee grave, on his father’s throne.

And you made sure the message pumped

through every speaker in heaven, hell, and earth.



Sidekick Funeral: Ricky Baker


We were all running with you

in that alley, little

brother, every one of us


who chased a job that was gone the second

the secretary barked “can I help you?”

and demanded to see ID, every one of us


who couldn’t pay for condoms and now

can’t afford a car seat because we blew our wad

on Ruby Tuesday and haircuts for prom, every one of us


who had to pretend it was fun

sleeping on the floor

for three years, every one of us


who begged our friends not to read

the tags on our jeans or the tongue

of our shoes, every one of us


who thought we could outrun this world

until the sun marked us black

and cut through our dreams like a shotgun.





Only history I remember is John

Brown’s raid, Jim Brown running, and Joe Louis

putting a white boy on his ass.

What makes you think I’m ready

to run tonight? Think I care about your badge?

Your polo shirt and whiskey threats?


I’d rather go toe-to-toe with all of y’all.

Running ain’t in my protocol.


Big brother says keep my head

down and work hard.

Father says sweat and the world will

notice. Mama wants

me to slow down

and pray, but how long

could you kneel

in another man’s shit?


I’d rather go toe-to-toe with all of y’all.

Running ain’t in my protocol.


Gunshot and cover

page in tomorrow’s paper.

They’ll talk about my neighborhood,

about the nights I spent in police cars, days

I skipped school. They won’t say I died

face up, daring God to look me in the eye.


I’d rather go toe-to-toe with all of y’all.

Running ain’t in my protocol.


[author_info]Jason McCall is the author of Silver (Main Street Rag). He is from the great state of Alabama, where he currently teaches English and Literature at the University of Alabama. He holds an MFA from the University of Miami, and his poetry has been featured in Cimarron Review, The Los Angeles Review, Mythic Delirium, New Letters, Poems & Plays, and other journals.[/author_info]