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Attachment: Atlantic City Pimp

Left of the @ sign the email address

was ethnically gendered with the nonce

noun sistah, which, I have to confess,

I scoffed at, thinking it was from some self-

discovering student of mine, before realizing it was

my aunt who sent the jpeg from her cell

phone. My aunt who doesn’t mind

a bit of shell if it means getting all the crabmeat,

who is known to only leave behind

enough of a tip to shame the wait staff

for their inattention. The subject line read:

“AC Pimp” as if her painted nails and belly laugh

made her expert in the fauna of pimps, a soul-stirred

savant of things cold-blooded. As if she could

divine an ivory handled Derringer holstered

at his breast icing the steel heart cognate

to the gun, that twin ventriloquist of tinder

and sulfur dust, that rhythmic and delicate

organ pumping like a fist that has a knack

for snake eyes and the superfluity of bruises

that follow every spaghetti-strapped back-

talker’s doubt. She must have thought

she’d reached her brother, my father, who harbors

like a gold molar a taste for robin egg and mauve

pocket squares, a flourish of trim, a hand-stitch,

lapels check striped and foreshortened

like tyrannosaurus arms and ostrich

print Stacy Adams to match. The modest,

feathered derby contrasting all those boas

festooning street lamps and mail boxes.

But my aunt is no mere expert.

“AC” may have been a random tag,

but that word “Pimp” bore the import

of all us do-wrong men. She was, in effect,

signifying—the kind of humor that waters

the eye, the doubletalk, the shadow dialect.

Like her spite-tinged smile at a bridal

shower, her patina of derision enlivened

the photo. My aunt, who refuses to settle

for a man less Christian than she is finds

everywhere despicable men. Hence the dozens

via email, the critique, like a razor inside

a roll of twenties, the currency

of our vengeance economy. Perhaps

there was an untroubled sea

just beyond the garish casinos behind him,

a stilt-walker or mime outside the frame,

a carnival and boardwalk where the horizon

would be, and a tour bus full of people waving.

Of all the images that might speak to something

inside her, this was the one she found worth saving.

from DigestFind more by Gregory Pardlo at the library

Copyright © 2014 Gregory Pardlo
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Gregory Pardlo Poems

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