hometown of harlem by Isi Vasquez

hometown of harlem

all of us, haulin and singin and spillin juice. mister charlie
is a-comin, and we all gotta run, but not ’til we get what’s due. the reefers  are droppin
the stomp of our feet
the ofay don’t deal in coal,

but we do.

we’re all in west hell, deep below, sell out
dressed in our righteous rags, draped down.
collar a nod, hear our words
we’re aunt hagar’s kids, we’re just like you.

all these frail eels, and i, coal scuttle blond, all of us smokin

each other.

and all these jar heads tryin to catch our attention, but all the girls are here
for each other.
the old cuffee girls, with the gut-bucket beat, stayin here long after the song is done.
don’t want to go home to thousand on a plate and the bear.

young suits, but lovely faces.

the big apple ain’t been good to us, but we made our way here.


One of the most interesting things about writing poetry, for me, is how you just end up with so many words that you had no idea were used. This poem was an assignment for my LGBTQ + studies class. We were supposed to write about the Harlem renaissance using language from then. The writing process of this piece was really interesting! I had to learn a lot of language, and look up how to use it. I watched videos on what slang people used and put together a list of phrases that I liked best. It was really interesting and a completely new experience for me, writing a piece with language that I wasn’t that familiar with. The process of putting this all together was a really incredible experience, and really interesting. Language is such a fun, lovely thing.

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