For Freckled-Face Gerald by Etheridge Knight

Now you take ol Rufus. He beat drums, 
was free and funky under the arms, 
fucked white girls, jumped off a bridge
(and thought nothing of the sacrilege), 
he copped out—and he was over twenty-one. 

Take Gerald. Sixteen years hadn’t even done
a good job on his voice. He didn’t even know
how to talk tough, or how to hide the glow
of life before he was thrown in as “pigmeat” 
for the buzzards to eat. 

Gerald, who had no memory or hope of copper hot lips— 
or firm upthrusting thighs
to reinforce his flow, 
let tall walls and buzzards change the course
of his river from south to north. 

(No safety in numbers, like back on the block: 
two’s aplenty. three? definitely not. 
four? “you’re all muslims.” 
five? “you were planning a race riot.” 
plus, Gerald could never quite win
with his precise speech and innocent grin
the trust and fists of the young black cats.) 

Gerald, sun-kissed ten thousand times on the nose
and cheeks, didn’t stand a chance, 
didn’t even know that the loss of his balls
had been plotted years in advance
by wiser and bigger buzzards than those
who now hover above his track
and at night light upon his back.