A.j. Binash

(04-20-1988 / Dodgeville WI)

Nawlin's Funeral


He approached me smiling,
With a lip that hugged his upper-jaw
Due to the absence of teeth.

“Ey dere.” He said. “When I see's a white boy round ere,
I know's eee's ere for one thing.”

I hadn't showered in four days.
My clothes and skin smelled like cigarettes.
I stared into his pupils, they were wide enough
That I could see my reflection, faint in the blackness.

“That might be? ” I responded.

“To see the dope man.
Naw ya don't look like a white boy
Dat's ere to see the dope man.
So what's ya round ere for? ”

I pointed down the block.
“I think I took a wrong turn, down there.”

He held his hands flat
Along his brow.
Creating a shadow over his pupils.
He squinted for a few seconds.
Staring down where my finger had pointed.

“Where you's frum? ”
“Wisconsin.”
“Wisskaaasin! ”He shouted!
“Well shiat, white boy. A lost Yankee in dis
Neighborhood. Come on naw.
I's show ya out. Name's Raymond.”

He extended his hand.
I shook it.
His skin was rough and calloused.
Felt like used sandpaper.
We began walking.

“My name's A.j.”
I said, after a few steps.

He laughed and shook his head.
“Dat sure is a white boy name.”

After a few blocks
And a discussion
About President Obama,
We came upon a mural.
It was painted onto a fence,
It was of a tree, that had branches
Extending out into rainbows.
Surrounding the tree were various names
Painted in black.

“Stop ere.” Raymond commanded.
“Dis right ere, dis the tree of life.”

I shook my head in acknowledgment.

“Ya know what a Nawlin's funeral is? ”
“Not familiar...no.”

He walked over to the mural
His knees cracked, as he lowered himself
Into a crouch.
He rubbed the tips of fingers
Along some of the names.

“See ere, we think life
Is somethin to celebrate.
Even in death.”

He stood up, again his knees cracked.

“Some day A.j.” He smiled.
“They's gonna add my name
And celebrate.”

We met eye contact.
There was a confidence to his stare
That intimidated me.
As if he were saying
'I am not afraid to die.
Because I will live on forever.
Right here.'

“Ya feel meh? ”
He questioned.

“Yeah...yeah...I feel you...”

Submitted: Saturday, March 01, 2014
Edited: Wednesday, March 05, 2014

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