The Albany Projects

By Sonia Currie

 

I was sitting on one of the monkey bars
At the playground near building number seven.
The projects had that airy quietness again,
as though the buildings had begun to mourn.
Shavon fusses with her two kids until she noticed me.
She stopped, stared, walked back, despite her baby’s cry.

The cry of the child felt like one yellow orange on a barren tree, a sweet hopeless attempt to end this quiet airiness.

Jamal walks out of building number four.
He stared at me as he passes me by.
His eyes looked desperate, worried and sad.
It is time to feed the beast.
I watched him walk up Troy Avenue.
When he saw old Mrs. Throne he stopped.
He crossed the street.
Mrs. Throne crossed the street.
They met in the middle.

Then Jamal turned and looked at me.  Then Mrs. Throne turned and looked at me.  Mrs. Throne will not feed his beast today.  Today Jamal had an audience, a witness.  He continued walking up Troy Avenue

Then I went back to the quiet airiness,
the mourning I can’t explain,
a quietness that fogged the air.
It really is not loud in the projects.
It is louder on Prospect Place.
Prospect where the beautiful brownstone lives.
Only regular people yell at their kids.
Only regular kids play loud music.
Only regular kids be walking loud.

Kids here move like a quiet ghost.  They are the unsuspecting darkness in the shadow.

Although we do hear wails,
mostly when we hear gunshots.
Then we hear a wail.
When we see the moms,
we pretend we didn’t hear the wail.
Mom don’t pretend she didn’t hear the wail,
but I pretend I didn’t hear the wail.

But it is only pretend.  I never forget the wail.  All the moms got their own wail.  I remember them all.

I was sitting on the monkey bars
on that airy quiet day.
I saw Parasite walking towards me
from building number two.

“Don’t come to the Coupe tonight.”  Then he excused himself and spit.

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