rap life
a throne of break beat sonnets
By Nate Marshall

oh shit, we dream in that new religion.
sound of black boy down, rebuke the prison.
we’ve been locked up, solitary. given
very little hope, but we press, driven.

break the walls, no brakes, we drive rapidly.
when black boy fly, might die actually.
possibly end up a gap, cavity,
an airbrush t-shirt, news line, casualty.

its likely. its okay, acceptable
risk. to achieve flight, gotta let us go
flip on a mattress or jump off a roof.
we may break on impact, but in air: loose.

we… free, fly, high. oh well if it kills us.
why? me & my guys don’t have a real trust

that you people love us, want us not dust.
so we jump, pray the air got us: thrust. up.

so we jump, pray the air got us: thrust. up
in the morning, we grinding just watch us
come down to my hood them shottas go bust
troopers or city cops won’t make no fuss

‘cause either they shook, or this is a plan
watch our folks implode, & then take the land
damn, ridiculous do you understand?
illegal’s our birthright, ghetto my man

like Jerusalem or Warsaw back when
broken glass theory, that shit just extends.
it’s been, & been, & we break dance & bend
hip-hop saved our life, it won’t pay no rent

so we get up, try to work & live plush
just make a little change never get stuck

i disregard the lames & the mixed up
make sure the money right, dollars is lust

make sure the money right, dollars is lust
shake that so vicious it might make me cuss
i exploit your looks, you exploit my trust
fund, i come from the slum selling that dust

now i throw all my bills, watch how they float
like mom did when broke with gas & car note
so i pay your rent, you gyrate me hope
the cycle we in, its learned & its rote

memory strong like your thighs & your ass.
you take notes from me quick like we in class
i’m breathing fast, you got me heaving cash
never wanna know though if we can last

let me blow my check, you show me your bust
i’m lonely but fuck, i’m zoning because

i pray you know that, & then give it up
i’m living lush, ain’t never giving love

i’m living lush, ain’t never giving love.
out here we get cream, never get enough
my guys push that weight & i rap that stuff
your crew claim tough, but dog them boys too fluff

we grimy, grinding, gritty, synonyms
for hard is us, fuck rules, we bending them.
big knots we spending ‘em, chain? Pendulum
swinging around my neck, yes, killin’ ‘em

girl’s feelin’ him, the young boy is special.
i’m too cold you too low, yeah i bet you
put that guap up, lose it, i’ll upset you
choose to get this ACT right, i will test you

like a pencil, time limit, minutes, hush
utensil down when bell sound time is up

you don’t want none, you best lay back and just
leave grown folks to real shit & chill out bruh.

Nate Marshall is from the South Side of Chicago. He is currently an MFA Candidate in Poetry at the University of Michigan, and has been a teaching artist for Young Chicago Authors and InsideOut Detroit. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Poetry Magazine, Indiana Review, [PANK] Online and in many other journals and anthologies. He is an Assistant Poetry Editor for Muzzle Magazine and won the 2013 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award. He is also a rapper.