Poem of the Week | February 17, 2010

This week we are excited to present “Love Letter to Flavor Flav,” new work from Marcus Wicker.  His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in jubilat, Crab Orchard Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Harpur Palate, Rattle, Ninth Letter, Sou’Wester, DIAGRAM, and Anti-,among other journals. He is an Ann Arbor, Michigan native who holds fellowships from Indiana University’s MFA Program and Cave Canem. Marcus currently serves as Poetry Editor of the Indiana Review.

I’ve always been troubled by my own willingness to accept Flavor Flav as an important popular icon. As a former member of Public Enemy, he operated like nightly lubricant for the group’s straight ahead politics; but one can’t deny, he’s a bit painful to watch. When Flav still had his VH1 reality show, I tuned in every week to watch him parade around a mansion, announcing his wild-ass presence in the world of my living room. Admittedly, I think that’s kind of dumb. But also kind of cool, and maybe honest.

Love Letter to Flavor Flav

               We know that we are beautiful.  And ugly too.
                      – Langston Hughes
I think I love you.
How you suck fried chicken grease
off chalkboard fingers, in public!
Or walk the wrong way down an escalator
with a clock around your neck.
How you rapped about the poor
with a gold-tooth grin.
How your gold teeth spell your name.
How you love your name is beautiful.
You shout your name 100 times each day.
They say, if you repeat something enough
you can become it.  I’d like to know:
Does Flavor Flaaav! sound ugly to you?
I think it’s slightly beautiful.
I bet you love mirrors.
Tell the truth,
when you find plastic Viking horns
or clown shade staring back,
is it beauty that you see?
Or Vaudeville?
To express myself honestly enough;
that, my friend, is very hard to do.
Those are Bruce Lee’s words.
I mention Bruce Lee here, only
because you remind me of him.
That’s a lie.  But your shades do
mirror a mask he wore
as Green Hornet’s trusty sidekick.
No, I’m not calling names.
Chuck D would have set cities on fire
had you let him.
You were not Public Enemy’s sidekick.
You hosed down whole crowds
in loud-mouth flame retardant spit.
You did this only by repeating your name.
Flavor Flaaav!  Flavor Flaaav!
I think I love you. I think I really might
mean it this time.
William.  Can I call you William?
I should have asked 27 lines ago:
What have you become?
How you’ve lived saying nothing
save the same words each day
is a kind of freedom or beauty.
Please, tell me I’m not lying to us.