“angels on the southside” by JR Mahung

Image Courtesy of Incase. Shared via a Creative Commons license.


angels on the southside

after Chance the Rapper

when we sing angels we don’t mean the cathedral kind
cherubs floating & pointing & playing harps & shit
we mean lil brown kids all in their diapers
lookin like my brother with his nappy cloud head back in the day
when he used to climb atop anything he could
& yell catch to whoever was below boy made it
on the rooftop once when he was bout five years old
giggled & trounced about as gram whispered her prayers
& dad circled the house in case the kid jumped
& i don’t believe in a god all the time but gram says lord only knows
how we got him down that day safe from any sort of harm the kind
we imagined for him i mean michael didn’t see that mess
said the way he got himself to jump was he never thought of falling
so then it’s only a flight & i ponder the words while watching a dashcam
of a body that looks like his & mine brought back into the earth it was borne from
i know some of my people will only leave the southside
in the belly of a casket & i know that i cannot know for sure
if laquan knew he was falling or if rekia taught him how to
think it a jump & i know that heaven’s gates are lower than
the white picket joints we see in the suburbs & I know
the choir looks like my people & when we sing angels
we mean the ones who wear hoodies & histories as robes
heavy enough for the ground to eat them early & this is how
we cradle them back to peace



JR Mahung is a Belizean-American poet and organizer from the South Side of Chicago. He is based in Boston and has published a chapbook on Pizza Pi Press titled Like Waters.