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(7 Long Times, by Piri Thomas)

.......Like I'm standing here and nuttin's happening. Diggit, man, what's in this here world for me? Except I gotta give, give, give. I'm tired of being a half-past nuttin'. I've come into this stone world of streets with all its living, laughing, crying, and dying. A world full of backyards, rooftops, and street sets, all kinds of people and acts, of hustles, rackets, and eyedropper drugs. A world of those who is and those who ain't. A world of name-calling, like "nigger sticks" and "mucho spics."

.......I'm looking at me and no matter how I set my face, rockhard or sullen-soft, I still feel the me inside rumbling low and crazy-like, like I'm mad at something and don't know what it is. Damn it, it's the craps of living every day afraid and not diggin' what's in tomorrow. What's the good of living in a present that's got no future, no nuttin', unless I make something. I fell into this life without no say and I'll be a mother-jumper if I live it without having nuttin' to say.

.......I know this world is on a hustle stick and everybody's out to make a buck. This I can dig, 'cause it's the same here on the street. I gotta hustle, too, and the only way to make it is on a hard kick. I dig that--copping is the main bit and having is the main rep. You see, I'm really trying to understand and see where you're at.

.......How many times have I stood on my street corner, looking out at your blippy world full of pros? At all you people who made it and got to be great, a real bunch of killer-dillers. I know about you. I've gone to the big school, too. I've dug how to live, too.

.......Are you willing to learn about me and what makes me click? Well, let me run it to you nice and easy.

.......Have you ever sensed the coming danger as on a bop you go? A rumbling of bravery, of puro corazón, and gusto to the nth degree? Have you ever punched a guy in the mouth with a ripped-off garbage can handle, or spit blood from jammed-up lips? Have you ever felt the pain from a kick in the balls? Have you ever chased in victory in a gang fight supreme or run in tasteless defeat with all the heart you can muster? Have you felt the bond of belonging when with your boys you went down?

.......Tell me, did you ever make out in dark hallways with wet kisses and fumbling hands? Did you ever smother a frightened girl's rejections and force a love from her? Did you fill your dreams with the magic of what you wanted to be only to curse the bitchin' mornings for dragging you back on the scene? Did you ever smoke the blast of reefers and lose your freakin' mind? Did you ever worry about anything at all--like a feeling of not belonging? Did you ever lover-dubber past this way?

.......Did you ever stand on street corners and look the other way from the world of muchos ricos and think, I ain't got a damn?

.......Did you ever count the pieces of garbage that flowed down dirty gutters, or dig the backyards that in their glory were a garbage dump's dream? Did you ever stand on rooftops and watch nighttime cover the bad below? Did you ever put your hand round your throat and feel your pulse beat say, I do belong and there's not gonna be nobody can tell me I'm wrong?

.......Say, did you ever mess with the hard stuff--that cocaine, heroin? Have you ever filled your nose with the wild kick coke brought or pushed a needle full of the other poison and felt the sharp-dull burning as it ate away your brain? Did you ever feel the down-gone-high as the drug took effect? And feel all your yearnings become sleepy memories and reality become illusion--and you are what you wanted to be?

.......Did you ever stand, small and a little quiet-like, and dig your moms and pops fight for lack of money to push off the abundance of wants? Did you ever stand with outstretched hands and cop a plea from life and watch your mom's pride on bended knees ask a welfare investigator for the needed welfare check while you stood there getting from nothing and resenting it just the same? Did you ever feel the thunder of being thrown out for lack of money to pay the rent, or walk in scared darkness--the light bill unpaid--or cook on canned heat for a bunch of hungry kids--no gas--unpaid?

.......Did you ever sneak into the movies and dig a crazy set where everybody's made it on that wide wild screen? They ride in long, down shorts, like T-Birds, Continentals, Caddies. Such viva smoothies, with the vines--the clothes--like you never ever saw. And, oh, man, did you ever then go out of that world to sit on hard stoops and feel such cool hate and ask yourself, "Why, man? Why does this gotta be for me?"

.......Have you ever known the coldness of getting busted...the scared, hollow feeling of loneliness as you're flung into a prison cell?

.......Have you ever heard voices inside you screaming, Don't bitch about being busted, turkey--you done broke the law and that's wrong, and had that truth eased off by another voice saying, Don't fret, little brother. How could you ever have done it right when everything out there in them streets was so goddamn wrong?

.......So carry the burden with mucho corazón and try like hell to make the shadows of the prison bars go away by closing your eyes to the weight of time.

.......Hard days, long nights. Without a name, a number instead. Your love of color blighted by a sea of monotonous blues and grays. Warmth replaced by cold steel bars. Tiny, bleak cells surrounded by chilly, concrete, mountain-high prison walls. Within is lost the innocence of a smile.... The tears that flow are unsalted and the laughter is unreal. The days that eventually turn into long years are each terrible in themselves;

.......You don't want to hear me. I'll make you hear me.
.......You don't want to see me. I'll make you see me.

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