Richard Pryor and me

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It’s a feeling of holiday inside,
‘cause every time I’m with you
you aren’t funny, have less pressure
to be that rocket on stage, breaking us
into two with those cut-‘em-up skills
God signed you on for. When we’re
rappin’ I only hear your hurt shatter
like Bird sellin’ another sax for smack,
knowin’ he gon’ be back to get his
love-baby mellow soother—knowin’
he got bills, and women, and music
to support and spoon. When it’s us,
Rich, shootin’ the shit ‘bout how Bad
got us in trouble growin’ up—we’ll both
tell each other we didn’t have to follow
Bad but he had a way of gettin’ into us
gut. He’d puff his cheeks on harmonica,
get dizzy with his looseness for trouble,
and we’d come runnin’—he didn’t have
one smooth Coltrane note in him. Nawh,
he’d play a cutthroat-crossroad-sweetness
and we loved to chat and shoot our wads
with that fallin’ angel, ‘cause we knew
how if he had bones they’d rattle like ours
and he’d love the pain he’d feel for being
human, unlike us—scared to love big,
to follow our insanities. We try to hide
in our botched prayers, want only good
things, things appealing to the eyes
of others, stuff we hope to handle
on the run, and things big, red,
popped bright in glare.

 
Photo of John Coltrane

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About Author

Curtis L. Crisler was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. He received a BA in English, with a minor in Theatre, from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), and he received an MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He has two poetry books out: Don’t Moan So Much (Stevie): A Poetry Musiquarium (Kattywompus Press) and “This” Ameri-can-ah (Cherry Castle Publishing). His recent poetry chapbook Black Achilles (Accents Publishing) was released in 2015. His previous books are Pulling Scabs (nominated for a Pushcart), Tough Boy Sonatas (YA), and Dreamist: a mixed-genre novel (YA). Other chapbooks are Wonderkind (nominated for a Pushcart), Soundtrack to Latchkey Boy, and Spill (which won the 2008 Keyhole Chapbook Award). He is the recipient of a residency from the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh (COA/P), the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), Soul Mountain, and guest resident at Hamline University. He edited the nonfiction book, Leaving Me Behind: Writing a new me, on the Summer Bridge experience at IPFW. Crisler received a Library Scholars Grant Award, two Indiana Arts Commission Grants, the Eric Hoffer Award, the Sterling Plumpp First Voices Poetry Award, and was nominated for the Eliot Rosewater Award. His poetry has been adapted to theatrical productions in New York and Chicago, and he has been published in a variety of magazines, journals, and anthologies. He is Contributing Poetry Editor for Aquarius Press, and one of the Poetry Editors for Human Equity through Art (HEArt). Crisler is an Associate Professor of English at IPFW.

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