Elegy, Fort Greene

Anna Claire Hodge


"It was all a dream." The Notorious B.I.G.


North of me, you too are within walls
and won't prepare for the storm
that will move from here and hang
above your brownstone like
a cold mobile. Unlike me, you don't
stand in line for beer & bread
like tired parents in the grocery,
who on their hips balance children
swallowed by parkas, like L'il Kim
in her black mink who wailed watching
Biggie's funeral procession. She reached
out desperately toward the limousines
crowned by wreaths that snaked down
your street in Bedford-Stuyvesant
more than a decade ago. When you
pass your window, do you glance
down, & for a moment, think of the
neighborhood boys holding dollar bills
over candles purchased from the bodega
as the over-sized coffin passed in its hearse?
Their tribute to his childhood boasting:
one day he'd be rich enough to burn
money. The dollars, then the boys
turn to smoke. It was, in fact, all
a dream. So you return to your books,
count them in case of a wind that might lift
& steal a prized copy, read again a chapter
that always made you weep, or open
a can of beans and forget them on the counter
for a game of online chess. Probabilities
swirl above you like hallucinations, like
the spectacle of neon, my first night
in Atlantic City. In that suit at the Tropicana
you were really something, & taught me
just what to do. Always double down
& triple stack. Play the dozens. Tip
the dealer. Order Long Islands to get
your money's worth, but keep them
off the felt. If you win a black chip, call it
a night. Never forget to bet on zero,
because when you forget is when it hits.