Cedric Tillman


Supremacy, or The Black Lifestyle


As much as people try to sound like they don’t care, some people think a black president will look out for the black lifestyle. – an NC woman, on Ben Carson

When I was comin’ up rough/that wasn’t even what you called it/that’s why I smoke blunts now & run with alcoholics – Tupac, “Fuck The World”


How to feed six kids?

She doesn’t know

who hit her.

They land where they land,

poor babies they stroll about

here and there

petals they blow at the wind

in their idle time.

Anything is possible here,

this is no poverty of programming

the way they stud themselves

with wifeys, no one compels

the holocaust in their volitions

the herd is culled behind those fences

not everyone

is gonna make it.



black blood

courses with hemophilias

counts time in sickled cells

all manner

of heritable conditions

keloid the American skin

over the redline

my brother laid me down


fuck I look like, thinks

I should know better

than to come around

looking like something to eat


happened by

while he was

gaunt and emotional   

bad lifetiming

find him


always in pistol formation

my brother

crosses the street slow

like he wants you to hit him

mistakes his net worth

for his value

never was nettled

by planes and towers

wears his pants below his ass

like an accusation



you must be

a superhero

an overcomer   the way

you don’t even come from

what you came from

just your

steely resolve, unbroken legs


joie de vivre

goading the want to



that propels you

toward pretentious subdivisions

the Harris Teeters with wine bars

beyond beltways

even we aspire to

the charter school

beyond the terminus

of the MARTA line



perhaps I can borrow

your imperviousness

If I make it

can I

have it retroactivated




at least

an EMT

who knows

how we bleed

in the absence

of clotting agents

while we can still

see the gauze

in each other’s eyes

before my mouth

freezes in applause

and I gurgle more liberty

over the corners

of my lips

which are angled in your direction

like greater-than signs.


191-1Cedric Tillman graduated from UNC Charlotte and American University’s Creative Writing MFA program. He is also a Cave Canem graduate fellow. His debut poetry collection, entitled LILIES IN THE VALLEY, was published by Willow Books in 2013. He lives in Northern Virginia.

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