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The Poetry Of Malcolm London
Poet Malcolm London.

Poet Malcolm London.

Our guest Malcolm London might only be 20 years old, but he delivers a powerful poetic punch. Our Tuesday broadcast with the up-and-coming Chicago poet is worth a listen — it’s a pretty fantastic conversation — but we also wanted to highlight some of London’s original poems he read on our air. His works are excerpted below and included in text.

“High School Training Ground” (excerpt)

This is a training ground.

Just sought to sort out the “regulars” from the “honors,”

a reoccurring cycle built to recycle the trash of this system.

Trained at a young age to capitalize letters,

taught now that capitalism raises you,

but you have to step on someone else to get there.

This is a training ground,

where one group is taught to lead and the other is made to follow.

No wonder so many of my people spit bars because the truth is hard to swallow.

The need for degrees has left so many people frozen.

Homework is stressful.

But when you go home everyday and your home is work

you don’t want to pick up any assignments.

Reading textbooks is stressful.

But reading does not matter when you feel your story is already written,

Either dead or getting booked.

Taking tests is stressful.

But bubbling in a scantron does not stop bullets from bursting.

I hear education systems are failing,

but I believe they are succeeding at what they’re built to do,

to train you

to keep you on track

to track down an American Dream

that has failed so many of us all.

“Never Too Late”

There’s one thing the richest man can never purchase

Yesterday

It feels like

Yesterday I sat Indian-style around my grandfather’s armchair

Suspended above my head

Like a skyline

His belly beneath denim overalls

Wreaking of Old Spice and drinking Mississippi Cotton Gin

He would say

Before nodding off the the Wheel of Fortune

and waking up when someone turned the station

If you are early

You are on time

And if you are on time

You are late

But it is never too late for your time

The richest man can never purchase

Yesterday

Yesterday my grandma says she sees

Everything

On the block

She complains about friends

My cousin brings into the house

Off the street

Late at night to use her bathroom

She fuss always,

But always

Let folk use her bathroom

The richest man can never purchase

Yesterday

But could purchase

A new bathroom

Every morning

My granddad

A construction worker with massive forearms

Building up a city

Tearing down his pension

Unfurls his bones

At 6 am to read the bible in his pickup truck

I’ve never seen him go to church

But make a chapel out of the garage

He was never fully awake

Until my grandma handed him his thermos

Of coffee

The richest man can never purchase

Yesterday

But could purchase

A lot of coffee

I am a poor man living in the same neighborhood

My grandparents could never afford to leave

Every morning I read

Headlines

18 shot in a weekend

300 dead in a summer

50 schools shut down

Public funding cut

Trying to turn poems into eulogies

I find in the newspaper

Everyday I teach

Students their words into new front page stories

The richest man can never purchase

Yesterday

But could purchase

A news station

My grandmother is a woman carrying a house on her back

Shelter more people walking in without wiping their feet

On the mat

My grandfather a clock

Ran out of time

Before he was ever late

My gandmother’s favorite past time

Is dreaming of my grandpa’s past

Everyday I sit in a classroom

Pointing to the granddaddy armchair pointing in the sky

Telling my students

This city

Is yours

This is your house

With all its late-night

Back alley bathroom visits

Under all this construction

You are builders

Hold your dreams

At the lovers hand

Hand the next person you see

A thermos of coffee

Wake them up

Wake them up

No headline defines you

No amount of money can take your yesterday

So pickup truck

Where you left off

And keep going

No hands control your time except yours

It is never too late to wake up

For your wheel of fortune

No matter who controls the station

Wake up

Wake up

It is never too late

like my gandma taught me

Never too late

To love yourself enough

to purchase a new beginning

“Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day (Love Sosa)”

Chicago has emerged

A duplication of Rome

A coliseum of world-wide spectators

Eyelashes stapled to eyebrows

Corneas wide

And waiting on the next Tribune article

On the latest body count

Millions of viewers

Anxious to hear the next ‘bang bang’

From the pistol mouths of black boys

Hear the applause for more audio

An audience of jackals

Cackling and cheering on

The symphony of corpse pile up

Here in Chicago

Every tongue is mimicking the art of the barrel

Barrels of blood

Burials of young

Through YouTube videos

Hip hop blogs

Radio play

Glory chasing boys

Singing songs of drug trade

And gun range

Of home

They are gladiators fighting on a battlefield

Where the landmines

Police who don’t care to protect

News anchors who don’t dare report

Schools who are only there to punish

But when the gladiator tells his own story

He blows up

Chief Keith

Got signed to Intrerscope with a movie deal

Shy Rack

Trended on twitter

As a joke

13-year-old rapper Little Mouse

Has about 36 thousand followers

Is on Wayne’s mix tape

Hear the dedication we have for this music

We love to dance to it

We love to listen to it

It’s so real

So hood

So real

So real

Black death

Bullets in Chicago

It is happening

It is urgent

More bodies being added to the list

At 300

And there is no ignoring this

And we don’t

We turn up

This music

Louder than a mother’s cry

For her funeral home children

We glorify

In Chicago

When black boys get killed

Chiefs alike

Laugh

Keith

And police

But who benefit from this?

No mother

No brother

No sister

No son

No daughter

No aunt

No uncle

No grandma

No granddad

No father

No cousin

No homie

No rapper

Likes to write eulogies

But who benefit from this

Arena of black boys

Revered and disposable

But spears for hearts

Armor skin

And crowds chanting for tombstones

South and West side don’t enjoy building new grave yards

While we dance on top

But who benefit from this?

Who took our love in hip hop

And turned it into love

In hip hop and lanler

We rachet

We hood

We laugh

Like we not wrapped them body bags

Rap about body bags

Gold chains

And decked out chariots

Our hoods

Cesspools of blood

And violence

Who who?

City planner

Who

Benefit from this?

These

Gladiators don’t sleep on skeletons just because they have a bone to pick

Who benefit from this?

Who profit from this coliseum of black boy gladiators

Celebrated for their carnage

Murdering for the world to watch

Why You Talk Like That?

Why you talk like that?

With fake bass in your voice

Like you got foundation

Why you talk like that?

Speak up like police lights on street posts

Up

Like that like

Surveillance

Can you see me?

The cabrini green growing in your esophagus

Talk like you

Waiting to be gentrified

Why you talk like that?

Like coffee?

Black but not strong like they like their coffee

Integrated

Obeying the cream

Talk like a playground

In your lungs

While you hyde park and breathe

In bravado

In belligerence

I see you native to these west side Americas

I hear the colonialism in your dialect

Where you grew up

Where you belonged

Loose squares is a mantra

Slurred words like liquor store was on the corner

Of your cheeks

See your tongue

Crisp and crossed

Like your mamma raise you

On crucifixion

Like she pray

You never come home in a coffin

Like she know

These predators pray

More often

Often you speak like you can make institutions disappear

Like magic

Like voodoo in your veins

Like you dream

Of new order

Or New Orleans

Talk like you immune to Katrina

This hurricane

Of injustice

Why your slang move like

Mississippi did migrated

Into your saliva

Dixie line dictions

Stirred in kitchens

In pots

Of collard greens

Turkey necks

And sweet potato pie

You sweet talk

Like you met at the intersection of Arsenio Hall and Fresh Prince

Transit authority

That transition to 26th and California

Is easy for you

You grew up

Spitting boss

Taste buds grew up

On police brutality

Dished out in cooke county

You spit like you thirsty

Like you been wading in the water

Of parasites and low income

Your mouth didn’t dry suppressing all that struggle

The thesaurus in your throat clogs like a word

But struggle

In other words

You talk like you never been north

Never been freed

Like you ignored

Like you need to be heard

Like your story has a history

You aren’t allowed to know

Like you got something to say

What do you think of poet Malcolm London’s message and meaning? What do you read in his poems?

Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook, Tumblr and @OnPointRadio.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Dee Dee B

    You make me very proud Malcolm.. You are our future and talented, insightful as it gets.. You remind me of a modern day Langston Hughes.
    Much success

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