Afro-Seattleite Fragment #12: South End Conditioning by Malcolm Friend

“I’m right back where I started / in the South of the city where the rain and my heart is.”
—Khingz, “Prodigal”

When Daniel runs after you,
you are no longer on Pitt’s campus.
It is no longer early fall,
sweat caking your Felix Hernandez T-shirt,
and you have not just read poetry.

When Daniel runs after you,
the stomp of his footsteps serves as a rip
in the seam of space-time,
flings you back to dark winter mornings
waiting for the Metro under streetlights,
six a.m. rides to school the only magic
to reverse the rule to be indoors
while they’re on.

When Daniel runs after you,
you’re in the South End,
where the only rule is live.
Keys slip between fingers
easier than Js or Adidas
on your feet—
ready-made weapon
only dependent on your aim
and reaction.

When Daniel runs after you,
you thank God you’re out of practice.
You laugh,
the only thing that kept you sane
most South End mornings.
The only thing that keeps you sane
in the South End.