[“You are 14”] by Victorio Reyes Asili

You are 14. You have a blue, silk shirt. It’s new, so you don’t have to worry about the wrinkles, or the shrinking. You will put on your acne medication in hopes that the zits won’t look too bad. You’ll pick at them, of course, disregarding your father’s advice: “If you pop your zits, you’ll get craters like this…At least I don’t look like Olmos,” he’d say. You don’t look like Olmos either, but you have craters just like your dad, but not yet. You’re still 14, and you have plans. You’ll smoke cheebah for the first time tonight, but only after you swear your friends to secrecy. You might drink some MD 20/20. I know, your stomach hurts just thinking about it today. But you know that all of this is just prep for Images, an under 18 dance club, your main destination. You’ll hope to hook up. You won’t. You’ll drink several Sprites and one orange juice. And of course, you’ll dance to Rob Base. You will dance harder than you’ve ever danced, so hard that you’ll barely register that you’re not very good at it. The DJ will play this track like three times, and on the last one, you will have learned enough lyrics to half rhyme along:

     Bro’, I got an Ee-GO!
     Yo, talkin’ to me?
     No.     Oh.

And by now everyone else knows enough lyrics to do the same, in unison:

     ’Cause I’m cool, calm just like a breeze
     Rock the mic with the help of Eeeeee-Z Rock! 
     On the set, the music plays
     Only cuts the records that I say!

Rarely is everything all right with the world. Consider tonight the exception.

Victorio Reyes Asili is an activist and author who teaches writing at the University at Albany. As a poet, former hip-hop artist, scholar, and social activist, Victorio Reyes Asili focuses his research towards expanding established conceptions of literary poetics to broaden the representation of marginalized voices and the work of artists that utilize poetry as a platform for questioning stations of power. He is the winner of the Phyllis Hurd Liston Prize presented by The Academy of American Poets. His creative work has been published in a wide range of literary journals, including The Acentos Review, Pilgrimage Magazine, Word Riot, and Obsidian. His poetry on hip-hop and other matters has been anthologized in It Was Written: Poetry Inspired by Hip Hop, Black Lives Have Always Mattered, and Chorus—A Literary Mixtape. He also is a former executive director of the Albany Social Justice Center.

Image: “lab-rint” by Bill Cawley

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