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Past Hard Roots My Future Stems and 2nd Chance, poetry by Jaray Hunt in Global City Review Issue 25: Do We Have a Future?
Past Hard Roots My Future Stems

project garden
planted seed 
left to decay  
in rotten soil  
blood boils 
fatherless truth 
mother’s poisonous fruit 

sold drugs on polo ground 
concrete blocks 
wall feels like thorns 
face smash 
search by cops 
hustle or rap
couldn’t water the jump shot 
Koofy died 
Charles got knocked 

resilience calls, black man 
high school equivalency 
get masters 
then PhD 
gray hairs in beard 
wisdom shows
like leaves grow  

bark skin darker and stronger 
the richest seeds
soaks pain longer 

2nd Chance

I would like to write poems about stuffed peppers 
when I take a bite – the taste
brings up a past memory  
about a perfect childhood that never happened 
write about eating pizza 
on a Friday night as a family 
laugh about jokes never told—
I dream to hit a restart button on life 
have my own little junky blue room 
inside the hood 
instead of sharing it with brothers 

I would have stayed in high school 
passed the SATs 
apply to scholarships 
get college opportunities 
for a poor black boy
from Polo Ground Towers 

get to college and double major 
in poetry and business finance 
diversify my investment portfolios
take more risks in my twenties 
complete the study abroad application
spend two months in another country
on the other side of the world 
learn a second language
speak Spanish in Spain
eliminate the D on my transcript 
spent my time reading more poetry books 
by black authors like Terrence Hayes
Claudia Rankine
essays by James Baldwin
study more Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison
improve my use of language 
master forms and metaphors
maybe I would write prose  

in my free time I would climb a mountain
where the air is thin and touches the sky 
a place high enough  
to converse with God
about why black people suffer —
stick my hands in soil 
feel the earth between my fingers 
to never chop down crack rock
with these hands and distribute 
to my people like food for fast money 

be more patient 
with black women I dated 
water them like flowers in spring 
encourage them to grow 
be gentle with their petals 
but ruin only knows ruin 
in God’s garden 

I want to write about dragons blowing fire 
my mother a dragon 
my childhood burnt by fire 
black ash blows in the wind  
to nothingness —
I want to tell my father 
he wasn’t a father 
my mother 
she wasn’t a mom 
but better than my father 

forgive my brother Jason 
when I had nowhere to go 
he left me in the project hallway 
never pulled a gun on my brother James 
ready to shoot in the living room
that day 

I want to write poems about love
my love for my grandma
her smooth bronze skin from the sun 
how her hug feels like the warm ocean
from St. Thomas

I want to paint portraits of living black people 
instead of poems about friends dying 
I wish my brain didn’t absorb
every traumatic black experience 
like a sponge

my surface smiles calm 
deep thoughts of a broken home
my brain a hurricane 
waves roar 
trigger typhoon anxiety 
I can’t breathe 

I am fragile 
all dreams shattered
in hands cuffs 
when blood spills 

Jaray Hunt is a young, black, Harlem poet from Polo Ground Towers. Harlem has been the very essence and foundation for all his creativity and education. Jaray received his MFA at The City College of New York (CCNY), also he was the co-recipient of The Jerome Lowell DeJur Prize in Poetry (2021). CCNY is where he discovered his voice and built a bridge between the world he grew up in and the new life he created for himself. His work is hybrid that includes photography and poetry, reflecting the living conditions of black people in America, and especially black men. Poetry and photography is the safe space that helps him visualize and contextualize beauty and cruelty of life.