male bonding
for Adrian, J., Christopher, Matthew & Randall

i want my sons to know
men who smile

i want my sons to know men
who own their imperfections

i want my sons to know
men who listen

i want my sons to know
men who hear hearts, see words

i want my sons to know men
who honor women

i want my sons to know
men who appreciate the arts

i want my sons to know
men who adore their mamas

i want my sons to know men
who aren’t afraid of tears

i want my sons to know
men who respect their fathers

i want my sons to know men
who use fists in self-defense only

i want my sons to know
men who value and dignify men

men who work hard, can’t
spell quit, understand no

i want my sons to know
men who apologize

i want my sons to know men
who have relations with The Divine

men who question everything
men who know humility

i want my sons to know
men who read books

i want my sons to know men
who laugh at themselves

i want my sons to know
men who see possibility

a father’s incantation
after Aracelis Girmay

here scraped knee and runny nose
here open eyes, laughter

here push swing, here
chicken nuggets, here soccer

ball, grace, here blue train
engine, backpack, summer

camp, swim trunks, here
what’s for dinner? here what

are we doing today? here smelling
pee, testosterone, here books, science

counting to 100, ABC’s, here gunshots
screams, short fuse, here prayer, here

prayer, here prayer, here a new day
cranky, hope, here respect, kindness

balance, here scabs, barber, tears, here
hugs, popsicles, here winter coat, the bill

is paid, here keep an eye on your brother
watch your mouth, here yes ma’am, call

your grandma, cha cha, rumba, jive, here
new shoes, clean clothes, here i don’t wanna

take a bath, here strep throat, asthma, allergies
here more questions, answers daddy here


daddy can we go to the store today?
i want a remote-control car. no son

we cannot go to the store today
because i want a rocket ship to the moon

but i can’t have a rocket ship
to the moon because i have to buy

food for you to eat and the electric
bill is hungry too. plus rent is due.

even after taking care of those needs
if i could afford a rocket ship when

would we go? i have to work on monday
and you have school. ok dad, can we

go to the playground, please?


Quraysh Ali Lansana is author of eight poetry books, three textbooks, a children’s book, and editor of eight anthologies. He is associate professor of English and creative writing at Chicago State University, where he served as director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing from 2002 to 2011. He is also a faculty member of the Red Earth MFA Creative Writing Program at Oklahoma City University. His new book, The Walmart Republic (with Christopher Stewart), will be published in September by Mongrel Empire Press. The poems here appear in his new book, Reluctant Minivan, Living Arts, Tulsa (May 2014).





Play It Cool

I was a fool who frequently tried to play it cool
Hiding my fears and insecurities beneath chauvinistic male bravado
Although I spent my young adult life in conflicting debates
Meeting my soul mate was fate

A manifestation of destiny
She was the missing ingredient to my delicious recipe
Regretfully, I committed repeated infidelities

I was a BAD boy acting like a GOOD man
Arrogance bred stupidity
ASS-spired to be sexual
While impersonating a highly astute intellectual
I’m from new school blended in old school philosophy
But flunked out of having just a little bit class!
Chasing after other woman, honestly

I was 19 when I met the love of my life, Tanisha
Inside the Clark Atlanta University rec. room
“What’s up? How you doing? My name is Art! Nice to meet you!”
She was checking out this corny basketball player looking guy
I took a shot, intercepted his pass to her and said “Hi”

Her eyes were Hypnotic
Her giggle was melodic
Excuse me Miss, but “How-Can-I-Be-Down”?

She was slightly taller and thin
With the most beautifully smooth chocolate skin
I still remember when
We talked for hours and hours on end
Just laughing!

“We had most excellent adventures”!
She would call me from a Circle K payphone
On her way home from school

Her voice was Chicago accented and warm
For me, this wasn’t the norm
As I sat in my dorm
We debated everything from the power of politics to the birth of our unborn

I STILL LOVE HER! In ways that make me so confused
My intentions were selfish and cruel
I was a fool! Who frequently tried to Play It Cool
Hiding my true feelings and insecurities beneath this chauvinistic male bravado
Although, I cry myself to sleep some nights
I time travel my daydreams reliving every moment
Since we met much differently

Band-Aids don’t stop profuse emotions from overflowing
Alcohol doesn’t heal a deep hurt left unattended
Drugs can’t numb the pain of our separation and
Apology poems don’t mend broken hearts!

So I offer mine seeking forgiveness
The bottom line is…
I cheated and I lied!
I prayed for her return then cried when she denied!

I lost a great woman In search of the real man in me
A hard lesson to learn only after losing my queen AND my family
I wanted to help her raise our daughters correctly
So I hope that one day that they can still love me!
Respect me!

I was a fool who frequently tried to Play It Cool
Always fronting
Now, I’m longer on the prowl
Just good will hunting

Boston poet Art Collins is cohost of the Lizard Lounge Poetry Slam and a former member of the Lizard Lounge National Poetry Slam Team (2008 and 2010). He is and educator in the Boston Public School system and performs his poetry with aspirations of reaching a global audience.