Willie Perdomo, a native of East Harlem, has won praise as a hip, playful, historically engaged poet whose restlessly lyrical language mixes "city life with a sense of the transcendent" (NPR.org). In his fourth collection, The Crazy Bunch, Perdomo returns to his beloved neighborhood to create a vivid, kaleidoscopic portrait of a "crew" coming of age in East Harlem at the beginning of the 1990s. In poems written in couplets, vignettes, sketches, riffs, and dialogue, Perdomo recreates a weekend where surviving members of the crew recall a series of tragic events: "That was the summer we all tried to fly. All but one of us succeeded."
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In the Face of What You Remember
You remember, that was the summer of Up Rock, quarter water, speed knots, pillow bags, two-for-five, Jesus pieces, and Bambú. The Willie Bobo was turned up to ten, and some would’ve said that a science was dropped on our summer.
The summer that was lit with whispers of wild style, Rock Steady battles & white party plates made all kinds of moons on the playground foam.
The summer the Burner was used to eat & mandate, inspired Sunday sermons, became a literary influence with humming climaxes, a bribable tale, a dub tied to a string & squashing beef wasn’t an option.
The summer of fresh shrills, and a future somersaulting off a monkey bar; a future placing bets that all us old heads, desperate to find a new cool, could not flip pure.
That was the summer that our grills dropped to below freezing.
Back then, Palo Viejo was thermal & therapy, bones were smoked in the cut, and you had to expect jungle gym giggle to be accompanied by buckshot.
That was the summer Charlie Chase hijacked megawatts from Rosa’s kitchenette, found gems in a milk crate, spun his one & twos below rims that still vibrated with undocumented double-dunks.
The same summer we became pundits & philosophers, poets & pushers; that we all tried to fly, but only one of us succeeded.
The summer that Papu turned up to extra status. The only one in the crew who had reduced fame’s window by a fifth when the camera panned his Cazal-laced Up Rock in the Roxy scene of Beat Street.
One could say we gave the Block gasp & gossip, body & bag, a folktale worth its morphology.
That was the season we had reason to rock capes & wings, chains & rings, some of us flew Higher than most, and tricks were hardly ever pulled from a hat; all that, & a bag of BBQ Bon Tons was enough for at least one of us to say,
Table of Contents
The Poetry Cops (Consolidated Poetry Systems) xiii
In the Face of What You Remember 1
In the Face of What You Remember 3
Bad Habits 5
The Day of Our Founding 7
Head Crack Head Crack 9
The Poetry Cops 11
Some Things You Might Need to Start Your Day 13
We Used to Call It Puerto Rico Rain 14
At the Preparación 16
Juice & Butter 18
Dapper Dan Meets Petey Shooting Cee-Lo 20
Guiso at Florsheim's 22
The Poetry Cops 24
Triple Feature 25
Sucker for Love Ass Nigga 27
The Poetry Cops Talk with Phat Phil 29
Josephine's Sweet 16 31
At the Battle 33
The Poetry Cops 35
That's My Heart Right There 37
Sucker for Love Ass Nigga 38
The Poetry Cops Talk with Josephine 42
The Poetry Cops Talk with Nena, Cachita, Shameka, and Rosie 44
Close to the River 46
How It Went Down 48
Not for Nothing, Honestly & Truthfully 49
When Teddy-Up Rolls 50
No ID 52
Your Lose Something Every Day 55
You Lose Something Every Day 57
Where Did We Find the Laughter? 60
The Poetry Cops 62
Freshly Dipped 63
Each One Teach One 64
Forget What You Saw 67
Forget What You Saw 69
Forget What You Heard 75
The Poetry Cops 77
Forget What You Heard 78
Brother Lo on the Prison Industrial Complex 79
The Whole World on a Subway 81
Bullshit Walks 83
Drug War Confidential 85
A Spot Where You Can Kiss the Dead 87
Breaking Night 89
On Sundays 92
The Poetry Cops 94
The Poetry Cops 95
Killer Diller 96
To Be Down 97
Bust This, Run That 99
They Won't Find Us in Books 100
Ghost Face 102
The Poetry Cops 103
Shout-outs & Big Ups 105