Dirty South (uncut and distant)


–For Mannie Fresh

where the symbols of slavery
drawn down to a blocking, would you sing
here what it means to be priced, put cash money
on living, here in the clay by the river, better
get money you can flash, yeah, built a city
on the backbones, on the calcium deposit silt
on the veritable joints, loosened into poverty
dreams and you thought a flooding would draw
back that theater, but new orleans kept
dancing for solid quarters, drumming plastic
buckets, we called it: living wage but the level
tipped like a levee of artists who shouldered
joy beneath sea level: they stayed laughing at us
drunk in the streets of our piss poor arms and when
the country said sick, we thought dirty, we thought poor
it’s all gravy if you fit the description
who you think is gonna die fast, who you think
gonna die first, we been here, we been here all along
the spectacle of genius on your screens safe
at home is how we became close
enough to touch but touch no further
we warred to take it back, our culture, frozen
erase, tell me music isn’t how we survived, show
me your body in the morning light that hasn’t scarred
under the beats we pulled up from our suffering
truth from the boot shawty, what you wanna see
you wanna watch it on the news, how the city
you love to hate will be the first to go silent again


Notes: Italicized lyrics in order of appearance from Back That Ass Up, Juvenile, 1998; Produced by Mannie Fresh, I Need A Hot Girl, Hot Boys, 1999, Produced by Mannie Fresh; Real Big, Mannie Fresh, 2004


Megan Burns is the publisher of Trembling Pillow press, co-director of the New Orleans Poetry Festival and has four books from Lavender Ink.