Obasi Davis

Born and raised in Oakland, Obasi Davis is a founding member of the heralded poetry ensemble Young, Gifted and Black. A tenacious student of prose and poetry since age 12, he has dedicated himself to his craft in workshops, at open mics and on stage at some of the nation's largest largest performance venues. He is a member of Spokes, Youth Speaks' teen advisory board and production training program. In 2013 he earned a spot to represent the Bay Area as a member of its delegation to the Brave New Voices international Teen Poetry Slam and Festival. Watch Obasi perform "57" at the 17th Annual Youth Speaks Grand Slam Finals.


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57

by Obasi Davis, age 17

Restlessly propelled bus tour through poverty's playpen
Inhaling the vile stench of minimum wage and food-stamps
An unholy concoction
of $8/hr in a $960 cramped studio apartment
fed by cal fresh's moldy
government cheese
You can't see your reflection in these dark waters
 
Poor
packed blacks on boats
But these ones float
Above neglected concrete
Journeying through flatlands
Where row house windows bear constricting iron bars
and beat with the melodic music of despair like imprisoned hearts
 
Tattooed reflections display poverty like full screen settings on flat screen TVs
Rolling over restless seas
roiling with potholes like whirlpools
where crackheads are caught in the undertow
 
The block conductor at the head of the snake
Pilots us to overcrowded buildings
clogged ventricles
new Virginias
and street corners
 
The girl next to me
Blackberry skin
Hair more plastic than the bus seat snacking on hot Cheetos and guzzling a Pepsi
She's Loud
Claps hands
Smacks lips
confused
Swallowing manufactured poison
trying to glimpse her face in troubled lakes
 
A man
slumped drunk across the aisle
Mouth smothered with muttered fuck you’s
Moaning with the ghosts of the city's lost sons
He floats
Immersed in a pool of toxic regrets
Stirring up the will to drown
Wailing his throat-gauging sorrows like a banshee
to his transparent deities
refusing to let them drown with him
he holds them aloft
buoys them on bent head
swims with a cigarette
two drags like white flags
float above him
Surrendering to his closeted demons
 
In the shadows
Black boys relapse to times when the back of the bus
and the bottom of the ship
were home
Engraving their names into the metallic flesh of this death trap
Hoping to be remembered
Littering pieces of themselves onto buses that last longer than their bones
so they won't be forgotten
future generations will know… we sank here
 
I sit
silent in the crow’s nest of a mad sanctuary
Etching my thoughts onto a crinkled brown paper bag
Documenting demise
Peering down at flailing limbs
My people
Not my direction
Torn between a plummet and survival
There is a piece of me
in the confused girl
consuming her poison
In the lost husk of a man
Adrift in lonely waters
Scripted
onto the bleeding echoing walls of a wrecked ship
 
Born into consciousness
Surrounded by a violent, leeching ignorance
How far have we really come
When we live like slaves to our own misfortune
When we search for salvation in the shadowed irises of our oppressor
We're so backwards
we've been engineered to oppress ourselves
We rob our own communities in mobs of hopeless heathens
Where is this progress you flaunt
like a new coat of ebony flesh
There is no happy ending
This line ends at 107 and Mac
Where black and brown boys reach the end of the line at the barrel of a Mac 11
Where they pave concrete over our wandering souls
Hardly a promised land
But ironically
the land we were promised