Back to Issue Thirty-One

hecky naw



before hell was an address we knew to call
we were only allowed to utter hecky naw.

the extra y, as if a question hanging in air—
can we get some more mom? hecky naw.

at the courts, we were picked up or picked on.
can i run in the next game? negro hecky naw.

when Kanye was cartographer of our grammar—
1st album, he told us aw hecky naw

that boy is raw. & of course, we all wanted
to be so uncooked, so rare. were we? hecky naw,

just a bunch of grayed knees & hard heads,
nate & his boys playing manhood. convincing? hecky naw.






you better imagine
like your life depends
since it does.

that boredom out of which making
is made is the only thing.

consider that somebody first had to pick through all the prehistoric plants
& sniff & taste
& sometimes diarrhea or even die
just so you would know that a collard green with the right seasoning
is a season that lasts centuries.

consider that somebody gazed at a star & said
aight bet
& built a fire.

consider the first Negro
on the first plantation
who figured which way was north
maybe before they knew the word
for north
& ran.

consider my love
with the middle name the enslaved dreamed of
running towards. see how i move swift in her direction.
consider how love is a great idea
we keep having every day. we imagine
being together & that is the first step.






                       for Juanita & the Perspectives Leadership Academy Class of 2016

so this one time i was finna say finna in a academic context
& a voice in my head said shouldn’t you be worried
about using a word that ain’t a word
& i was like word.

& for a long time that was how i let my life happen,
i let my mind tell me a million no’s that the world
had implanted in me before i even formed questions.
i let my power be dulled by my fear of fitting.

but i remember a million finnas
i avoided to get here. like the day
them dudes jumped me off the bus & i was finna
get stomped out like a loose square. or the day
they got to shooting at the park & i was finna
catch one like an alley oop. or the day
my grandma died & my grades dropped & i was finna
not finish high school except i had a praying mama
& good teachers & poems to write. i’m thankful for all these finnas
that never were & when i remind myself
of who i’ve always been i remember why
my finna is so necessary.

finna comes from the southern phrase fixing to
like i come from my southern grandmothers & finna
is this word that reminds me about everything next.
even when i’ve been a broken boy i know i’m fixing to
get fixed. i’m finna be better. every dream i have is a finna
away from achievement. each new love i uncover is a finna
i unfold. every challenge i choose to meet & not let defeat me is a finna
i fight for.

my hope is like my language is like my people: it’s Black
& it’s brown & it’s alive
& it’s laughing & it’s growing & it’s alive
& it’s learning & it’s alive & it’s fighting & it’s alive
& it’s finna
take on this wide world
with a whole slang for optimism.



Nate Marshall is an award-winning writer, educator, and speaker from the South Side of Chicago. He is the author and editor of numerous works including Wild Hundreds, The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, and the audio drama Bruh Rabbit & The Fantastic Telling of Remington Ellis Esq. His next book, FINNA, is due out in 2020 from One World/Random House. He is an assistant professor of English at Colorado College. He has bars.

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