• We Just Waiting for J's Liquor Store to Open on Up

    Patricia Smith

    Spring 2024


    I smell the cloying stink of a particular religion etching
    its gospel on the scrubbed, unworried side of the rolling
    shutters. It’s the funk of the preach that draws me here,
    the side-eye that renders me bent double, twinging, my
    thick mouth willing to swap language for flame. I admit
    out loud to being Jesus’ damned near, the almost
    of the Holy Ghost, the mistake that won’t quit even if
    it could see how. I’m out here in the wind with the rest
    of the no-shame-in-our-game disciples, heads bowed,
    eyes leaking the last of last night. We are obedient
    in the way the just-waking boulevard says we must be—
    reverent, slow-stomping our dirt-tired hymns. Looks like
    we’re waiting for another sloppy resurrection. But not
    me, Lawd, not this fool. I’m next in line for the cross.


    Checking my phone, and here come that text message over
    and over: Where you at? Last time I looked, I’m still grown,
    still walking any street that’ll hold on to me. I’m still grown,
    rising from my own damned bed just in time, scrubbing
    the sweat from my ass, getting to where I need to be, right
    on the clock. I’m where I’m gon’ be at, I say with my thumbs,
    then I shut the damn thing off ’cause I can’t stand the way
    those green numbers keep yelling Not yet. I need these folks
    to roll that cranky old steel on up, let me run straight to my
    sip of beautiful, my sip of slow drag, my sip of the way
    I need my man to rock me. Until then, I’ll disappear inside
    my own thirsty shadow, trying not to lock pinkish eye with
    the only other sister here. Why they keep locking up our
    beautiful, locking down the only way we know to sing?


    Patricia Smith is the author of eight books of poetry, including Unshuttered and Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. She is the most recent recipient of the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry, and she teaches at Princeton University.

    Read More

    Web Design and Development by Riverworks Marketing