“Mandate” by Roger Bonair-Agard

Roger Bonair-Agard

            after Patrick Rosal

To laugh at weaker boys (or at least the less sharp-tongued)
    to kick ball till the moon rose
    or something vital bled—we lived
To wait like predator
    for the first note of a slow jam
    to grind ourselves into the wall
    with a pretty girl between us
    and make sure our boys were watching

We were tropical     suave     post-colonial oil money niggahs
and we had to do well—in all things
    in Latin
    in the First Queen’s Royal College Scout band
    in talking shit
    and especially in football
so we practiced memorizing where
our defenders were
so we could look the other way
as we went past them
cuz it was only cool
if you made it seem effortless

we were sophisticates like that
looking for immortality in the tales of others
and most of our friends were still alive

To buy two sno-cones from George
    whose rickety cart parked outside
    the school each day
To have the cones stacked with extra syrup and condensed milk
To gather around the cart
    because George always had sensible shit to say

To follow that with the hottest     spiciest
    doubles from the doubles-man behind the cafeteria
    who built two multi-level homes
    off the profits from our purchases
To laugh at that irony

To pick on the faggot boys
    because we wanted our fathers to think we were men
To join the new dance-craze revolution
To stop traffic on Frederick Street
    just to see Doc, Scientist and Froggie
    spin on vinyl, pop-lock, head-stand
    electric-boogie, dead-man

To sit on the steps
    of the downtown shopping plaza
    and stare at the beauty of our women
To believe at sixteen
    that they were our women

To welcome satellite TV and music videos
    like it was God
    because who can see the future anyway
    It was 1984
and we were busy looking good
mimicking everything we saw

To go watch Gip play better than the rest of us
to see him collect the ball on the outside
of his left foot     count the on-rushing defender’s footsteps
and slide the ball deftly through his legs
while looking the other way
    effortless like that

Our bodies hadn’t begun to betray us yet
Kirk and Gregory and Rudy and Peter were still alive
Dave still had his legs
and the worst thing wasn’t     not doing well
only seeming     like you were trying too hard

from Rattle #27, Summer 2007
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