N.S. Ahmed

Street Uniform

Jenzo DuQue

Crooklyn (Only in Name)

Street Uniform

N.S. Ahmed

For Gwendolyn Brooks

Those Midnight Boys roll down Brooklyn
in the dance of smooth chords and thin gin.
In Bay Ridge, our seven plant bullets in

the soil of graffiti bricks. They’ve been
lurking to the tune of Shakur and own sin. Those
Midnight Boys are rolling down Brooklyn.

They’re real cool, you know? Their art of snatching
prey from unpaved streets. Cruising stolen skin to
Prospect, where our seven plant jazz in.

Mornings, boys leave high-school during recess.
Gathering at the Shovel, our pool players begin
striking matches and plans to roll down Brooklyn.

It’s dead late soon. Our seven boys filling the air in
straight methane, begin to lose their grins. On the
highway, our seven plant their blood in.

In June, the pallbearers carried seven coffins into
ground to the song of organs and tearing kin. At
Bay Ridge, our seven planted bullets in. Now,
our Midnight Boys roll down in Brooklyn.

Crooklyn (Only in Name)

Jenzo DuQue

run youngblood run, they’re gunnin for youngins out here and the rest without hes—

—itation, even in broad daylight and when the sun sets, don’t matter if you’re blacker than midnight on broadway and myrtle they’ll come hurlin darkness and trouble eyein you
     on the double

run youngblood run, cause the streets just ain’t clean no mo, it’s only ghosts, fiends, and sweeps in store, the warm flutter of fear in blue uniforms’ chest n if I’m being honest opps for cops to prove
     their mettle/metal

run youngblood run, they’re gunnin for youngins out here and the rest without hes—

—itation, we were tooed in the womb with gun-shaped birthmarks that sealed our doom, so that’s the story of how there’s no right side of a boom and Crooklyn as a concept is just a sign
     of our decimation

used to be that your biggest concern was idle cars and cinder blocks making their acquaintance

used to be people knew your name round the way even say sorry for my righteous indignation

now the only stuff folks can muster from under the boot is a bitter sense of resignation

now the only sound you hear is the silence when another life cuts out, the amount of time it takes

to pull a trigger

without hesitation

N.S. Ahmed is a first-generation Egyptian-American fiction writer based in New York City. His writings have been featured or are forthcoming in publications such as The Margins, The Offing, Hyphen Magazine, New York Public Library, and PEN America. Currently, he is a CUNY Pipeline Fellow, a CLS Scholar, a TEDx speaker, a Periplus Collective Fellow, and a graduate student and Hertog Research Fellow at Hunter College’s MFA program for creative fiction.

Jenzo DuQue is a Colombian-American writer, teacher, and editor. He received his MFA from Brooklyn College, where he served as an editor of The Brooklyn Review. Jenzo’s Writing has been published widely, as well as anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2021 and Best Microfiction 2022. Read more at jenzoduque.com

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