ari was in the backseat
of a squad car by the time
i arrived from class, tumblers
painting “the nine” midnight red
blue, red. annoyed sista next
door on my stoop, talking how she
could raise my son better, dcfs
already on way. rushing past
i thank her smugly, that she found
him wandering south on evans
mama’s weary too deep. two
locks, two flights of stairs & two doors
then wildlife search for lost anaconda
diego and baby jaguar at his heels.
they knew something we lacked.
tired daycare staff said anti-social
not behavior. he plays alone mostly
and enjoys hide and seek, the campus
labyrinth half a football field in size.
no one saw the buddyless boy join
a group walk down the long hall
past administrators and security.
out of door, handholders turn right
ari forward across drive, parking lot
his head lower than hood ornaments.
police spot him near cafeteria, a three
year old undergraduate darting back
to dorm for snack between class. they lose
him in square corridors, endless doors.
twenty minutes later i retrieve message
from office line, cell phone on file, on hip.
gunfire and house arrest family
across street led us across town.
teen sons in age for what you on
nigga we found pacific heights in
chicago, playground down the block.
first weekend ari is nocturnal study
new quest, fresh terrain. we are
sprawling search party, hectic moonlight.
four lane, three blocks away, neighbor
spies him at intersection, calls police. bolts
and chains on doors next day too low.
fire escape invites back gate missing
two by four, alley eye open to last night’s
Quraysh Ali Lansana is author of eight poetry books, three textbooks, three children’s books, editor of eight anthologies, and coauthor of a book of pedagogy. He is faculty of the Writing Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Recent books include The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop and The Walmart Republic. Forthcoming titles include A Gift from Greensboro, The Whiskey of Our Discontent: Gwendolyn Brooks as Conscience & Change Agent, and Revise the Psalm: Writing Inspired by the Work of Gwendolyn Brooks.