Riot Act, April 29, 1992, By Ai

I’m going out and get something.

I don’t know what.

I don’t care.

Whatever’s out there, I’m going to get it.

Look in those shop windows at boxes

and boxes of Reeboks and Nikes

to make me fly through the air

like Michael Jordan

like Magic.

While I’m up there, I see Spike Lee.

Looks like he’s flying too

straight through the glass

that separates me

from the virtual reality

I watch everyday on TV.

I know the difference between

what it is and what it isn’t.

Just because I can’t touch it

doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

All I have to do is smash the screen,

reach in and take what I want.

Break out of prison.

South Central homey newly risen

from the night of living dead,

but this time he lives,

he gets to give the zombies

a taste of their own medicine.

Open wide and let me in,

or else I’ll set your world on fire,

but you pretend that you don’t hear.

You haven’t heard the word is coming down

like the hammer of the gun

of this black son, locked out of the big house,

while massa looks out the window and sees only smoke.

Massa doesn’t see anything else,

not because he can’t,

but because he won’t.

He’d rather hear me talking about mo’ money,

mo’ honeys and gold chains

and see me carrying my favorite things

from looted stores

than admit that underneath my Raider’s cap,

the aftermath is staring back

unblinking through the camera’s lens,

courtesy of CNN,

my arms loaded with boxes of shoes

that I will sell at the swap meet

to make a few cents on the declining dollar.

And if I destroy myself

and my neighborhood

“ain’t nobody’s business if I do,”

but the police are knocking hard

at my door

and before I can open it,

they break it down

and drag me in the yard.

They take me in to be processed and charged,

to await trial,

while Americans forget

the day the wealth finally trickled down

to the rest of us.

From “Greed” (Norton: $17.95.) This, Ai’s fifth book of poetry, is a collection of dramatic monologues on the subject of greed, for money, power, sex or love.