Site design: Skeleton
Sample Poems by Jason Magabo Perez
We share an apartment with hundreds of ipis,
ipis in the front room, ipis in the back,
ipis crawling on the kitchen counter,
ipis marching across the carpet,
ipis on the VCR, ipis inside
the VCR, ipis on the plastic plants,
ipis up & down the Venetian blinds,
ipis in the garbage disposal, ipis, ipis,
ipis on the bags of rice, so many ipis huddled
in the mouth of an empty vinegar bottle.
Let's say it's 1990. Redlands, California.
I'm nine years old.
I'm in the master bedroom.
It smells of Raid & bleach & fried fish.
My brother has just copped the hottest, most groundbreaking single to ever hit Kmart! The West Coast Rap All-Stars-Tone-Loc, Michel'le, Ice-T, JJ Fad, Young MC, MC Hammer, NWA, Too $hort, etc.-have united under one powerful thesis:
"We're all in the same gang."
This single drops at a time when I'm scared to rock the wrong colors, like the wrong red on my red Bulls jacket, like the wrong blue of my Jordache jeans, like the wrong combination of black & grey.
This drops at a time when my fellow third graders are claiming the sets & hoods & barrios of their dead uncles.
A time when we're beginning to notice that we are so death & so penniless.
Some of us feel ugly & stupid.
Some of us talk mad shit like we matter.
Some of us hide.
Once upon a time, in 1990, I'm hiding in the master bedroom & replaying this perfect song on my mama's alarm clock radio-this perfect song helps me hope:
End the violence.
We are all in the same gang.
I got mad hope that this song can save the world.
& what gets me most is the impeccable verse of Eazy-E.
I decide to record my own version.
I grab my brother's boombox & a blank Memorex tape.
I set the boombox on the bed.
I load a blank Memorex tape into the recording deck.
I press record & pause.
I press rewind on the alarm clock radio & find Eazy's verse. Stop.
I release pause on the boombox to start recording.
I press play on the alarm clock radio.
Respectfully, I begin to spit my lungs out:
"Last but not least, yo, Jason's no sellout…"
I recite bar for bar Eazy's high-pitched & nasally but G'd up & captivating flow.
In this brief narrative, Eazy, now I, address a hypothetical young gangster, a gangster who I might see rolling through our apartment complex, a gangster from whom I run, from whom I hide, for whom I cry, for whom I pray.
Emulating Eazy I narrate the life & sudden death of that hypothetical young gangster, whose mother is mourning & mourning-her son is dead, nothing "but a zero / take notes from Jason P., the violent hero."
(I'm not actually the 'violent hero.' I'd cry myself to pieces if I ever had to be this confident in teaching my brother's dead homies some act right.)
I hit stop on both machines.
I rewind my new recording & cue it up.
I hurry to the kitchen & grab my mama.
I urge my mama to her room & press play.
What could my mama possibly be thinking?
Perhaps she is taken aback by my command of the English language. & my command of Compton Black vernacular no less.
Perhaps she is heartbroken that her bunso is in desperate need of such hope.
Perhaps she herself hopes to Jesus & Mary that she will never become the mother in the song, mourning the death of one of her babies.
What does my mama make of my creativity?
Of my desire to record my hope for a new world?
Am I a budding rapper? Am I a Filipino Bow Wow before Bow Wow becomes Bow Wow? Or before Bow Wow emerges as Lil Adorable Baby G Bow Wow on Arsenio Hall in 1993?
Regardless of my mama's hopes & fears, regardless of my becoming, mama says, as she wipes dead ipis legs from the nightstand:
"Wow, anak. Ang ganda! You are so good in English."