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A circle. Shoulders and hard chests and arms like rosary beads
from push-ups before bed, eyes narrowed.
We wear our hoods up. We talk in couplets.
Two lines at a time and my heart has
never been calmer than here,
in the cypher.
I stare at my trainers and listen to deep voices
throwing out lyrics through smoke.
I know I can do this much better than them.
I can feel it. Something like stillness,
but nothing like stillness.
It creeps up my throat like water creeps down it.
It spreads itself over my tongue.
My shoulders are squared.
I move like the boys,
I talk like the boys,
but my words are my own.
And when I unleash them, my eyes widen and focus.
The streetlights stop flickering, just for a moment,
the arrogance prickles like sweat at my temples,
I’m moving as if I have never been gentle.
The kinder among them look at me sideways.
Smiling, shaking their heads,
I feel it all through me.
It’s shaking my legs.
I push my fist against theirs, my soft arms are clasped,
I’m embraced like a man, my back slapped,
and my heart all the time getting faster.
The beatboxer nods his respect.
And I’m feeling bigger than
all of these buildings.
I wait for my turn again,
everything burning.