How I live the mack life:
Makin’ money, smokin’ mics like crack pipes.
It’s type simple and plain to maintain—
I add a little funk to the brain.

– The Notorious B.I.G.
At the hard core of the borough, a black heat stuffs its own mouth with a mic, 70’s records spinning up warped & crackling. Above, black helicopters chop the sound apart—spotlight hard like a sewer pipe out of the night. I am a two-second sample of my yesterday self, of the last decade & something extra leftover from before in each beat. George Clinton taught Bootsy Collins about alter egos & how to face the music with a mask, the rhinestones like tiny mirrors exploding the rhythm in every kind of light. A miracle is defined by more than finding something clean in the gutter—it must also be made & arranged into something that kills. Crack rock or quartz crystals. A sewage drain or, through the music, a way underground.


I don’t wanna live no mo’.
Sometimes I hear death
knockin’ at my front do’.
I’m livin’ everyday like a hustle:
Another drug to juggle—
Another day, another struggle.

– The Notorious B.I.G.

I know what it’s like to have to file the air with slights of hand, how to manage the infiltration of Giuliani’s fingers into the sun’s struggle to stretching—shadows knocking down the front door. An autopsy of the city shows its heart crystallized, its gut knocked stuck to the ribs, intestines rubberbanded around a fat green grip. Last I heard, I was dead in the far corner of the borough where the sound can’t stand up to the stories cut up & smoked. Sometimes I hear my own name in the rain collected & gurgling under the streets, hear it hissing up from the floor in my apartment I’ve yet to define as anything other than just a big damn casket. The heart hustles to get the fuck out of its cage as soon as it can—convinces the fingers about money, about the temporary characteristics of white chalk drawn roughly in the shape of a body. The erasure finally with the rain, where the runoff goes River Styx in the sewers & Charon is gonna want his cash whether you got it or not.



P. J. Williams was born and raised in North Carolina, home of John Coltrane, Doc Watson, and the Good Lord’s favorite BBQ. He currently writes and teaches at the University of Alabama, where he is a candidate in the MFA program. His poems have appeared in PANK, Salamander, Crab Creek Review, Nashville Review, DIAGRAM, and others. New work is forthcoming from Raleigh Review and Ostrich Review. He is co-founder and lead editor of Utter, an online creative arts magazine, and is in the process of co-editing an anthology of poetry inspired by hip-hop with Jason McCall.


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