Haiku IV: Poems
by Benin Williams Lemus
Illustrated by Rosalind Helfand


Traffic, traffic stop!
A symphony on concrete –
Clang, clang, clang, we go!


(Spoken Word)
New York City, July 19th, 2001

Gil Scott-Heron at a Crossroads with Drugs

Sometimes you don’t want to pick up the newspaper and read it because you will discover that one of your poetry/civil rights heroes is not simply “on drugs”, but has been dragged into the hell-pit of drug abuse and will probably die if he doesn’t get intervention. He will probably die if he refuses intervention.

He will probably die.
I hope it’s not true. I hope it’s not what she says
I hope they don’t know the truth
You’ll explain
You’ll explain that it was all a mistake-
That you were holding it for a friend and that you can quit anytime
And 1.2 grams ain’t that much anyway and jail is the corrupt, racist, political institution designed to keep the poor, black and brown-
(Just like you said it was)
So fuck it- you’ll do the time in the so-called-rehab
So you can tour and live the way you want and 18 to 24 is a short sprint and you hadn’t seen your daughter in that long and she walked, talked and became a woman in less time than that
You didn’t miss a thing…
You can make 18 to 24 pass with your eyes closed
No problem
If you are lucky
It feeds your art, your passion
You are
And not Bessie waiting for a proper
Who better than you to say the way it was
Be around another 52 years to tell it us how it is
The Revolution will Not Be Televised but the saga of your life is being
Played out in print
Already eulogized and in the past tense
He says you have learned to “hover right above crashing”
You have learned to survive without living.
I hope that you are magic and this is just a show
All pretend for our twisted amusement and that there is light inside
And not the black of dis-ease
Make us think
Make us act
Make us buy tickets and you actually
Show up
I hope it’s not true
I hope it’s what you say
Not what we read.



You are only nine.
Already you know rejection.
By your mother.
By your father.
So you are in charge of rejecting now.
Brought you both in.
You at nine.
She at seven.
You see yourself as father to her.
And knowing no better-
At nine-
You cook corn in the can on the stove.
While your mother sells-
Everything she is told has value.
Anything a man will pay for.
But I like corn
You say.
And you only want your momma back.
Social worker.
Steps in.
Chances for you.
You have already used up.
What happens when you play Monopoly
And you run out of money?
She quizzes.
Game over.
You think you understand.
Well, your mother ran out of money.
She looks.
To us.
And they want to be your family.
Five plus two
Is seven.
But you cannot wait to leave.
For the avenues.
Where odds are even.
When they land against an alley wall.
Stay with us.
Be vibrant.
And you will know.
You won’t learn boulevards swallow little black boys.
With slurs as words.
Knives and chains and
If you stay.