Only the Strong: Review | Mosaic Literary Magazine

In his debut novel Only the Strong, Jabari Asim has captured something plaintive and essential in his generous rendering of 1970s Gateway City, a fictional African-American Midwestern town still reeling from the devastation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination. On its cover, Only the Strong declares itself “An American Novel;” in Asim’s pages, readers will recall the work of Ann Petrie, Stuart Dybek, John Edgar Wideman, and Sherwood Anderson—writers who have created nuanced portraits of vivacious American communities.

Source: Only the Strong: Review | Mosaic Literary Magazine

The Talk

The Talk

It’s more than time we had that talk
about what to say and where to walk,
how to act and how to strive,
how to stay upright and stay alive.
How to live and learn,
how to dig and be dug in return.

When to concede and when to risk,
how to handle stop and frisk:
Keep your hands where they can see
and don’t reach for your ID
until they request it quite clearly.
Speak to them politely and answer them sincerely.
The law varies according to where you are,
whether you’re traveling by foot or driving a car.
It won’t help to be black and proud,
nor will you be safer in a crowd.
Keeping your speech calm and restrained,
ask if in fact you’re being detained.
If the answer is no, you’re free to go.
If the answer is yes, remained unfazed
to avoid being choked, shot or tazed.
Give every cop your ear, but none your wit;
don’t tempt them to fold, spindle, mutilate, hit
or otherwise cause pain
to tendons, bones, muscles, brain.
These are things you need to know
if you want to safely come and go.
But still there is no guarantee
that you will make it home to me.
Despite all our care and labor,
you might frighten a cop or neighbor
whose gun sends you to eternal sleep,
proving life’s unfair and talk is cheap.

—Jabari Asim