“Three Breaths In Clothing” by Jacques Wakefield

Clothes held him
On the popular street

He wanted clothes more than he needed
To be dancing naked with God

In fact stepping in and out of new sneakers
Gave more meaning to life than
Moving in the light of the sun
(perfect shadows of imperfect places in his soul);

moon bathing
after dinner
lifting him up;

sitting on the
stoop of the world
moving to the park
stylin’ moves into
the hoop &
creating himself

Rap (id) heart pounding
flash fashion
dripping sweat cementpounding
steppin’ up jumpin’ up
pullin’ up the sneakers
after him
wearin’ himself inside
outside, posting
himself against himself
greedy gulps of air and self gratifying

satisfying posturing
gripping the sneakers to the earth
creating himself
Wearin’ labels
On his cap on his shirt on his pants
On his jacket on his face
& in his off handed way of sayin’
“nigga” between every breath of word
Liftin’ the burden of the word
Away from himself alone
Passing it to others who also wear their gods
On their backs for lack of substance
Creating themselves;

Caps turned backwards
Evidence of how many don’t
know if they’re comin’ or goin’
Clothes too large, appearin’ as if
they belong to someone else much bigger
than themselves; a threat.
Neatness and fit don’t count
Or they do count; for nothing

A fear of being excepted by the unknown…
Wearin’ hoods like monks on the mad monastery of the streets
Hoods hiding their fears & scowls
(Is it gravity pullin’ their backs round an’
Down or is it top heavy oppressive air pushin’ them around?)

&the limp like a broken legged walk is carried
Heavily or lightly skipped or chain ganged draggin’
That heavy ball of tradition catchin’ the hip slowly
Slidin’the leg in a cool arc under it…
Arms & head bobbin’
Swimmin’ space; coercing Time into themselves
Always takin’ Time out for a walk.

She accepted profanity as friendship
Fighting against the wind of her true heart
tryin’ hard not to be different

“nigga” became her favorite word
to dismiss heartbreak or anoint someone
in playful affection

though she said it as often as others
she couldn’t bear it as an evil
or hold it long in her eyes:
only imitatin’ the wind as it met her

wantin’ not ta git caught in a deceivin’ wind
she tightened down her skirt an’ brought it up to her
(k)nee (d)
Naturally now the neighborhood
Became smaller

Soon the flower will open
The earth will welcome
Which way her pollen blows
& grows…


Jacques Wakefield: Aaduna (Spring, Fall 2016), Anthology of American Literature Vol.2, 9th edition (Pearson), The Write Room at



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