Mr. T in Your Pocket

As Minneapolis burned, I found Mr. T
in a desk with a tube of superglue,
a screwdriver, two pairs of broken sunglasses,
some crumpled Canadian Tire money.

He’d secreted himself in a beige plastic peanut
attached to a key ring, a digitized genie
who never leaves his bottle. Press a button
and he booms, Don’t give me no backtalk, sucker.

He came to us a decade ago, Christmas flotsam
from a sibling. Voice as time travel: it zapped
me to an 80s school yard, where Mr. T was always
the baddest. Don’t make me mad. Grrrrrghhhh.

My family’s doctrine was that good English
and good behaviour made good camouflage
so he bewildered me: why would a Black man
adorn himself, command the public gaze?

A generation later, my toddler discovered him:
Shut up, fool. Shut up, fool. Shut up, fool. Shut up, fool.
Shut up, fool. Shut up, fool. Shut up, fool. Shut up, fool.
I shoved him to the back of that drawer

but it was too late. What dat man say, Mama?
I dismissed the gizmo as sad masculinity:
straight drag by proxy. Then I lied
to my child. He said, Chin up, boo.

This month, I held the brittle capsule and googled.
Young Lawrence Tureaud changed his name
so no one could call him “boy”:
First name: Mr. Middle name: Period. Last name: T.

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