Sunday Jun 23

TonyMedina Tony Medina is the author and editor of several books for adults and young readers, including I and I, Bob Marley and My Old Man Was Always on the Lam. His poetry, fiction and essays are featured in over forty anthologies. Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Howard University, he is a two-time winner of the Paterson Prize. Medina’s latest books, Broke on Ice, An Onion of Wars and The President Looks Like Me are ---forthcoming in 2011.

Broke Celebrity (Culture)


Follow me
In and out of
Cardboard boxes
They stalk me at the
Unemployment line
Shots of me
As I sit
Along the curb
Peeling crusty
Scabs from
My high-heeled
Callused feet
They have me pose
For photo-ops
Outside welfare hotels
Even have me
Hold up hunks of
Government cheese
Like award-winning statuettes
They treat me
Like a pampered pet
Some privileged poodle
Whose poop doesn’t stink
Snap and point
Their fingers
Have me turn
And bow and
I gladly do
As they say
And end up
In all the rags

I Spent the First Years of My Life in the Arms of Firemen

I spent the first years of my life
In the arms of firemen,
Drawer-less with a T-shirt
And no shoes, watching flames
Lick their way out our
Windows, neighbors gawking
At the wild late night
Entertainment usually
Reserved for the evening
News, children climbing
Onto fi re trucks like a
Sandlot jungle gym never found
In their park-less South Bronx slum.
Firemen carrying me through
Railroad flats of smoke and flame
Down narrow flights of rickety
Stairs where kids and teenagers
Kissed and pants rubbed
After school or during daytime
Hooky hours where no one
Was around except construction
Workers and mailmen.
I spent my first few years
Going from apartment
To apartment escaping smoke
And flames ignited by uncles
Who fell asleep drunk and
High with cigarettes dangling
From their bottom lips,
Who fell asleep with their
Clothes and shoes on as if they
Knew they’d have to make a
Mad dash to the door while the rest
Of us slept in other rooms, smoke-
Less and secure, wakened by instinct,
Scents and hysterical cries, frantically
Making our way out into curious crowds
Staring up with a strange sense of awe
And pleasure at water hoses and
Ax handles smashing through
Each window, staring up at the
Big flames and black smoke
Smearing toward the sky.


Early morning bar
Room full of white drunks, their eyes
Wet & daring, glare
At my father & me—two
Black spic birds the wind
Blew in—come in from the
Cold for change of a
Dollar. They turn from their
Barstools like Wild Kingdom lizards in
Time-lapsed photography. Their eyes say,
Well well well…What do we have here? smile like the
Grins found in the black & white photos
Of lynchings. My father, unable to undo the
Knot of memory, to return the smile without
Giving himself away, does not bother to
Speak. Instead he holds a dollar
Up at the barkeep. Before my father
Could speak, the bartender says,
We don’t give change here.
What the hell are you
Doing here? is how my
Eight year-old mind imagines he takes it,
For he rushes me out of there as if the bus is
About to pull up.
Before my father could
Turn, I narrow my eyes at them,
Wave my little brown
Fist in the air long
Enough for my father to
Grab me by my bony
Arm & yank me out
Of there, as if to say, What’s
The matter with you—