James Baldwin Smoking Cocoa Puffs With Larry Levis At The End of The Universe, High On Stolen Fish

Said Shaiye


It’s been a long time since I dreamed something more beautiful than life itself. But last night I dreamt a beautiful life for myself. And this morning I coughed cobwebs into empty cereal bowls. And this afternoon an old man stole my Cocoa Puffs in front of the Masjid. I feel myself falling into tunnels I no longer know how to travel. And if I wake up on the other side of earth tonight, all I’ll ask for is two flashlights. One to light the way, and one to light the crushed pack of Newports in my thief pocket. If I woke up on the back of a horse, I’d ask Larry Levis if the sky is the same color as the blue stone he used to knock out my tooth. I’d ask the horse if he knew the difference between a path and a hearse. I’d ask the hearse if life was meant for something less tragic than the back of a hearse. And if it were possible, I’d ask death why he flirted with my life so much. And if I could, I’d ask my life why it kept me lurching through mush. And if my life could talk, it would say: finish your Reese’s Peanut Butter Lovers Cups before asking stupid questions. And if my Reese’s Peanut Butter Lovers Cups could speak: they would say: there’s a man at the end of the universe who has a question for you and only you about stolen fish. Now I’m at the end of time looking back on galaxy formation, on binary stars, on beat breaks looped to infinity and back again. I read in a video the other day, and I heard Baldwin say: people only care about writers when they’re dead. A little black boy asked Baldwin if Black writers had a chance now, because of people like him leading the way. Baldwin smiled and said: they never had a chance. Black writers never had a chance. White writers, too, but less so. But nevertheless, nobody cares about a writer until he is dead. I asked myself what he meant by that, and why those words felt so right. Well, I told myself, it’s because dead writers can’t talk back. They can’t write back, clap back, smile on a horse’s back. And all the non-writers of this world, slithering like white folks, will twist writers’ words until the dead writer has no choice but to RISE UP FROM THE GRAVE and say: fuck* wrong witchu? I never said any of that shit*. But it’s deeper than rap. Dead writers make living cowards’ dreams come true. And the living waste dreams the dead would do better to pursue.


*I normally don’t cuss this infrequently, but I’m trying to be a better person. Sure, cussing doesn’t make you a bad person, per se, but it also doesn’t make you a better person. What would James Baldwin’s stolen fish think of me? What would Levis’ blue stones say to me? Probably nothing, because I made them up, and everything, because nothing is made up. OK. Imma go dissociate to LaKeith Stanfield’s Do Better. The part where he says:
That tar & burned me//Feathered chicken//Tethered to an anchor//Mississsippi river//Come up missing//really dripping// And the part, at the very end, where he improvises emotionality as the beat breaks down.


Said Shaiye is an Austic Somali writer from Seattle who now lives in Minneapolis. He is an MFA Candidate & Graduate Instructor at the University of Minnesota. He has published in 580 Split, Entropy, Diagram, Rigorous, and elsewhere. His debut book, Are You Borg Now?, was recently released by Really Serious Literature. It’s an experimental memoir with elements of poetry, self-interview, photography & more. He can be reached at www.saidshaiye.com