July 25, 2021

Brock Guthrie

BIZ MARKIE & ME

I saw him in New Orleans in 2005,
fifteen years after his smash hit “Just a Friend.”
He was crossing the street with an entourage of four.
I was at a red light on Decatur and Canal.

Early spring, already hot, not a lot
of people out. I think it was a Thursday.
My left hand on the steering wheel,
I sort of pointed and thought: Biz!

His crew must have sensed it—
they elbowed him like Look boss, a true fan.
And “true” would have been accurate
because it’s not as if he was conspicuous.

He was just a guy walking down the street with friends.
So my spotting him revealed a nuanced appreciation
not only for obscurely-iconic American faces

but also for the texture of fading stardom
against the backcloth of time’s passing.
They were right to be impressed.

But here’s the remarkable thing:
he jump-stopped, turned, and pointed at me!
Smile full of tongue, the Clown Prince
of Hip Hop, the Human Beatbox!

Who’d made one of the all-time best anthems to unrequited love
with a crazy catchy chorus any vocally-challenged asshole
could feel good about singing in the car or the club:

Yoouuu … got what I neeeed.
But you say he’s just a friend.
You say he’s just a friend.
Ohhh baby yoouuu …

And there we were: the Biz and me in Nola
one spring afternoon in 2005, pointing at each other
for a good long second. Then he walked on.

Marcel Theo Hall.

I wish I could properly identify
how this memory makes me feel.
Happy, on the one hand, but also
a little shameful, shallow, because

big fucking deal and yet I remember
how I reached for my phone to take a picture.
Worse, I convinced myself of a lie
that rode me the whole way home:

I thought Biz would’ve shared a beer with me
had I only parked my car and followed his crew
into whatever Quarter bar they were headed to.

Hey man, it’s me, the guy from the car!

Imagine his reaction. The confusion of those days.
Daytime drinking was often what’s for dinner.
Disaster averted, I say. In a roundabout way

it’s like that Frost poem “A Passing Glimpse”
where he remembers seeing flowers vaguely from trains
and laments he can’t go back and properly identify them.

But then he figures, fuck it, the thought
is good enough, because the thought
can become a poem, a stay against confusion.

That’s how I’d like to feel about that memory.
Sloshy Brock. Frosty Rob. Biz Markie.
Momentarily stayed, here, happily.

from Poets Respond
July 25, 2021

__________

Brock Guthrie: “RIP hip-hop legend Biz Markie, a fixture of my rap-fanatical youth—a fanaticism that must have something to do with my efforts to become a poet. I feel like a different, better poem might keep the focus on Biz, but celebrity encounters (as much as we’d like to believe otherwise in the moment) are one-sided; they exist in one memory. So, this is what came out. Part homage to a celebrity artist, part elegy for an earlier version of myself, and, with the bit about Frost’s ‘momentary stay against confusion,’ which has always made sense to me as a definition of poetry, part ars poetica.” (web)

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