Boombox Head

—for Hoodnick

You the mix-tape soundtrack singin your unspoken—
the playback sloshin home to our city on the grind. It grinds on

us that “you don’t leave Gary w/out keloids, prayers put up, or death.”

What tinkles trickles back to a stale mechanical drawin classroom,
where Mr. Olson’s monotone bounced off our noncommittal

ears, where we jones’d ‘bout life in the next quadrant of existence,

bankin on some grace after teenager. Old days sketch you the simile,
like rooted tributary—light-skinned & testosterone-pampered in

perspiration, kickin Hendrix & Rotten in that heavy R&B zone, needin

a bed to rest your raw worries. Words could do you no harm. Binary
colors of permanence never fit correctly. You spittin alternative

before it crashed couture—acceptin the screech from cats caught tails.

We were deaf mostly, slapped by history’s backhand, stuck searchin for
our parent’s costumes to fit us. We traipsed not to be cardboard

replicas. “Not ‘til we can accept how we must grow into the-our-selves-

we-never-see does the ON-switch click.” You left Hoosier w/ your fro &
toothy grin, hit Cali to never be the one of us missin the rapture—

fond of a chick named Blondie, a babe w/ black heart, tattooed Joan.

Curtis L. Crisler was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. He received a BA in English, with a minor in Theatre, from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), and he received an MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Crisler’s book, THe GReY aLBuM [PoeMS], was picked from over 100 manuscripts for Steel Toe Books 2016 Open Reading Period, and will be published in 2018. His recent poetry books are Don’t Moan So Much (Stevie): A Poetry Musiquarium (Kattywompus Press) and “This” Ameri-can-ah (Cherry Castle Publishing). His poetry chapbook, Black Achilles, was published by Accents Publishing. His previous books are Pulling Scabs (nominated for a Pushcart), Tough Boy Sonatas (YA), and Dreamist: a mixed-genre novel (YA). Other chapbooks are Wonderkind (nominated for a Pushcart), Soundtrack to Latchkey Boy, and Spill (which won a Keyhole Chapbook Award). He is the recipient of a residency from the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh (COA/P), the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), Soul Mountain, a guest resident at Hamline University, and a guest resident at Words on the Go (Indianapolis). Crisler has received a Library Scholars Grant Award, Indiana Arts Commission Grants, Eric Hoffer Awards, the Sterling Plumpp First Voices Poetry Award, and he was nominated for the Eliot Rosewater Award and the Jessie Redmon Fauset Book Award. His poetry has been adapted to theatrical productions in New York and Chicago, and he has been published in a variety of magazines, journals, and anthologies. He edited the nonfiction book, Leaving Me Behind: Writing a new me, on the Summer Bridge experience at IPFW. He’s been a Contributing Poetry Editor for Aquarius Press and a Poetry Editor for Human Equity through Art (where he’s now a board member). Crisler is an Associate Professor of English at IPFW. He can be contacted at

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