We know that we are beautiful. And ugly too.
I think I love you.
How you suck fried chicken grease
off chalkboard fingers, in public!
Or walk the wrong way down an escalator
with a clock around your neck.
How you rapped about the poor
with a gold-tooth grin.
How your gold teeth spell your name.
How you love your name is beautiful.
You shout your name 100 times each day.
They say, if you repeat something enough
you can become it. I’d like to know:
Does Flavor Flaaav! sound ugly to you?
I think it’s slightly beautiful.
I bet you love mirrors.
Tell the truth,
when you find plastic Viking horns
or clown shade staring back,
is it beauty that you see?
To express myself honestly enough;
that, my friend, is very hard to do.
Those are Bruce Lee’s words.
I mention Bruce Lee here, only
because you remind me of him.
That’s a lie. But your shades do
mirror a mask he wore
as Green Hornet’s trusty sidekick.
No, I’m not calling names.
Chuck D would have set cities on fire
had you let him.
You were not Public Enemy’s sidekick.
You hosed down whole crowds
in loud-mouth flame retardant spit.
You did this only by repeating your name.
Flavor Flaaav! Flavor Flaaav!
I think I love you. I think I really might
mean it this time.
William. Can I call you William?
I should have asked 27 lines ago:
What have you become?
How you’ve lived saying nothing
save the same words each day
is a kind of freedom or beauty.
Please, tell me I’m not lying to us.
—Marcus Wicker (Vanderburgh County)
This poem is from Maybe the Saddest Thing (Harper Perennial, 2012) and first appeared in The Missouri Review.
Marcus Wicker is the author of Maybe the Saddest Thing (Harper Perennial), selected by D.A. Powell for the National Poetry Series. Wicker’s awards include a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, Pushcart Prize, as well as fellowships from Cave Canem, and The Fine Arts Work Center. His work has appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Oxford American, and many other magazines. Marcus is assistant professor of English at University of Southern Indiana and poetry editor of Southern Indiana Review. He serves as director of the New Harmony Writers Workshop.
Poetry Prompt: A Fan Letter
Write a poem addressed to some pop culture icon (past or present), famous author, or political figure. Tell this person what you admire about him or her, and do this is a way that creates a vivid portrait. Your tone might be sincere or ironic. In the process of writing your letter, you will need to decide how much of yourself to reveal.
Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem and prompt every day in April. Indiana Poet Laureate Shari Wagner selected these poems and wrote the prompts.