Back to Issue Twenty.

fresh to death



Summer, 1992

while in Chicago, police created
a whole new crime category,
Starter Jacket Murders

Jet Magazine, May 11, 1992

starter jackets were the coldest
second skin. they’d glitter
in the whole sale windows
of Maxwell St. storefronts
like flags or primary colored
emeralds. shone from the bodies
of Black poets on Yo! MTV Raps.
Chicago, Hornets, mascots, cities
emblazoned on the chest
like tribal tats, religions, gang
affiliations. clean sport cuffs
and collar. snap buttons and sheen.
the coolest wore them open even
in the crisp air, airing rope gold
and white tees. a coat perfect
for the fall. so much loot
it’d be crazy to ask your mama.
oil slick arms just outta reach
like everything in america.
so cold it seemed reasonable
this could be the ocean of satin
somebody might die over.


Kevin Coval is the editor of The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and is the author of Schtick, L-vis Lives!: Racemusic Poems, Everyday People, Slingshots: A Hip-Hop Poetica and the play This is Modern Art, co-written with Idris Goodwin. Founder of Louder Than A Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival and the Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors, Coval teaches hip-hop aesthetics at The University of Illinois-Chicago, is a 4x HBO Def Poet and has written for a wide variety of publications including, Huffington Post and Fake Shore Drive. The Chicago Tribune’s called him “the voice of the new Chicago” and the Boston Globe says he’s “the city’s unofficial poet laureate”. Coval’s A People’s History of Chicago is due out in the Spring of 2017, on Haymarket Books.

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