“What I Am” – Terrance Hayes

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Fred Sanford’s on at 12
& I’m standing in the express lane (cash only)
about to buy Head & Shoulders
the white people shampoo, no one knows
what I am. My name could be Lamont.
George Clinton wears colors like Toucan Sam,
the Froot Loop pelican. Follow your nose,
he says. But I have no nose, no mouth,
so you tell me what’s good, what’s god,
what’s funky. When I stop
by McDonalds for a cheeseburger, no one
suspects what I am. I smile at Ronald’s poster,
perpetual grin behind the pissed-off, fly-girl
cashier I love. Where are my goddamn fries?
Ain’t I American? I never say, Niggaz
in my poems. My ancestors didn’t
emigrate. Why would anyone leave
their native land? I’m thinking about shooting
some hoop later on. I’ll dunk on everyone
of those niggaz. They have no idea
what I am. I might be the next Jordan
god. They don’t know if Toni Morrison
is a woman or a man. Michael Jackson
is the biggest name in showbiz. Mamma se
Mamma sa mamma ku sa, sang the Bushmen
in Africa. I’ll buy a dimebag after the game,
me & Jody. He says, Fuck them white people
at work, Man. He was an All-American
in high school. He’s cool, but he don’t know
what I am, & so what. Fred Sanford’s on
in a few & I got the dandruff-free head
& shoulders of white people & a cheeseburger
belly & a Thriller CD & Nike high tops
& slavery’s dead & the TV’s my daddy–
You big Dummy!
Fred tells Lamont.

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