The Palls

The Palls | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Courtesy of moominsean/Flickr.

after Tommye Blount’s ‘The Suit’


Rookie,   this shift blows–still,   wear your tie, though
    in time   you’ll goddamn the   Southside. Lord   knows

I’ve spilled   coffee, ink,   blood’s the   worst. June’s cursed,
    dead bodies ride the ‘L’,   too broke   to hearse.

Rent-to-Own   funerals.     Hand-me-down   wakes,
    violate parole, the drama they make:

gravesite / drive-by   hospice room/     hostage site.
    Handcuffs   cut off   handouts: Boy, keep it tight,

stand up straight! Dad’s splintered 2 x 4 screamed.
    More love for   his unit,      than us   we gleaned.

His basic training:   smile/starve, or   fight/eat.
    I had   to swing     back     to stop     getting     beat.

10-4,   one kid    age 5?   It’s   all    good   guys
    keep our body cam’s   off.   For spills.   That’s why,

       ✶   ✶   ✶   ✶

through the side alley,     a sad   cypher blows.
    Phone lines,     dirty moss,    sneaks    limp on boughs.

We scared   to bear    the palls,    with bravery:
    police   been on patrol   since slavery.

Juneteenth   bouncy house:   12 here?   Riot gear!?
    Hands on your knees—cha-cha-slide—Freeze!   We hear

Captain’s   n—    n—    words   flash-bang   overhead
    Balloon doggies   splatter,   ooze,   ketchup   red.

White BLM marchers misspelled #HysNa’me.
    Casket-side, bitter     sweet cousins play   games

beneath Jesus,   pinned,   whitewashed to the wall.
    Who forges scythes   to fell     saplings so   small?

Look y’all– the new one.     Tied     his tie    on me.
    See, we’re not all bad.
       –But, you’re   all not clean.

Saleem Hue Penny is a Black disabled “rural hip-hop blues'' poet who punctuates his work with drum loops, field sounds, gouache, and birch bark. He is the 2021 Poetry Coalition fellow at Zoeglossia, an assistant poetry editor at Bellevue Literary Review, a member of Obsidian’s Inaugural “O|Sessions Black Listening” 2022 cohort, and a proud Cave Canem fellow. 
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