No Blood Left Behind
This was supposed to be an essay called “Bloobloopdeblam” that criticized the ubiquitous cliché in rap. This was going to be an essay that championed the idea of imposing creative constraints. As in, no more bars about your drop top; as in, negative on mentioning the cuff of diamonds encircling your wrist; as in, enough with bragging on the megatons of weed you puff by the month. This essay was supposed to be a rant against the dearth of creative content in hip hop and a hypothetical, though facetious, fix.
Yeah, well, call me fickle, cause what it could've been, it won’t be.
The impetus is this text exchange from the other day. Someone asked how I was doing and I said, "making it," and they said, "you doing a lot better than that," and I said, "that depends on perspective."
I said that because of late, I've been mired in a melancholy we might just call ironic. Let me explain. I came to this city (NY) a decade ago intent on becoming an author, but also harboring the lofty ambition that achieving that dream would fuel what’s been an adult-life mission: helping my loved ones make it—most importantly my mama. All these years later I am, by measures, realizing dream A. The problem is, the closer I get to some sort of career achievement, the greater the distance I witness between my blood and a career—period. The problem is, though dream A is upon me, the likelihood of it supplying my mother’s long-term security seem slim, frail, wispy as shit.
Before somebody goes and accuses me of being a pessimist or worse an ingrate, know this: reaching this position has given me an immense sense of pride. In ways my younger self could not have fathomed, I feel accomplished, hopeful, fortunate, empowered, buoyed by the propsect that moments of my future might feel oh so close to sublime.
Though, as I said there’s my blood. There’s my blood and our history.
Ask any yammertastic ex hustler about the satisfaction one feels in providing for a significant. No rent, no problem. No car note, not a worry. Empty fridge, small woe. Whatever the deficiency, the elixir is at hand. In fact, forget all the ill-begotten baubles, there is no greater joy for a go-getter than assuring a loved one “I got you,” in earnest. Ask those who know me and they’ll tell you, beginning in my late teens, for a select few, I was that guy: rent, light bill, groceries, gas, court fine, pawn-ticket, law-away, school clothes, team fees, funds to fuck off—you name it, I supplied. And believe you me, for my folks, my real folks, I have never stopped feeling compelled to do so. How could I, when there persists a plethora of troubles (That’s a no-go on exposing the particulars of this intimate business), which demand the Mitch of yesteryear, or at least my ex pockets.
“Either you’re slingin crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot."—Biggie (Things Done Changed)
We’ve seen those halftime specials on the athlete who catches or throws a ball or three-point swooshes he and his family out of poverty; we’ve all read stories of the first round draft pick who cops his mother a brand new ride pre cashing a single pro check. We hear-see these tales and they confirm: the other American dream (the one born in Congo Square) is real. A person with enough talent and focus and perseverance, a dreamer with just the right tincture of luck, can become who and what they want, and when they do, it's all to the good for their kin.
All good, unless you want to become an author. Unless you want, not only to write a book, but produce work that endures. Hey, I'm no fortuneteller, but I don’t foresee any vampire series or sci fi trilogies or erotica for my career. What I do see are stories that explore the lives of those who will likely (What, ya’ll missed the memo? My people don’t read, or at least read enough to nix the knock) never read them, and since my content has been and might be as such, what are my chances?
“All us blacks got is sports and entertainment until we even.”—Hova (Dead Presidents)
Go ahead and say I’m silly for chasing this dream, for believing it could aloft us few.
And for those of you assenting, I say this: before I had a child, I had a mother who needed me. Now I have children and a mother who needs me. My words must heft, and I can't envision another way.
Nor do I want an easier way. Easy street has always existed in someone else's neighborhood, and I’m fine with it, trust me, fine. And me whimsical, never that. No hope of wealth beyond Romney’s (insert: the white man’s) wildest dreams. No visions of bank vaults filled with gold medallions. No pining for a best seller (don’t get me wrong, I’d love one) so I can flaunt Maybach down a boulevard.
What this is, is the longing for peace for me and for us—no, for us and for me.
And if not peace then at minimum enduring calm.
“Everything will be alright if you hold on.” Pac (Dear Mama)
Let me reiterate, I’m beyond happy to be here—ecstatic. I have a publisher who believes in me. I have an editor who not only believes in me but has been a shepherd in this process. Oversoul is out in the world and well received. The Residue Years is on the way, and while these developments give me a sense of having achieved, there is a very real chance, so near it seems semi-certain (though I’ll go to my grave beating against it) that this life I chose, will never afford me the means to throw a rope to the ones in my life who most need rescue.
The shoreline dissent, I hear it. They say, I made the choice to leave my loves behind. They say, if the concern was as deep as I claim, I would’ve chose—MBA not MFA—means of more fruits. They say, her need maybe beyond figures. Ask, where are the siblings in all of this? Swear, a savoir isn’t the job of even an eldest. That no matter the efforts, my melancholy’s catholicon won’t be.
None of that matters to me as much as this farewell word, a word especially, for fellow sentient ambitionists.
I will avail if only by increments, do it held fast to the hope that my success will be enough, though if it ain’t, my god, my god, it’s all to the bad—ruins. Cause to outerspace with what the theysayers say, onmylife, I ain’t made it if my mama's still struggling.
Mitchell S. Jackson is a Portland, Oregon native who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He received an M.A. in writing from Portland State University and an M.F.A in Creative Writing from New York University. He has been the recipient of fellowships from Urban Artist Initiative and The Center For Fiction and is a former winner of the Hurston Wright Foundation’s award for college writers. Jackson teaches writing at New York University. Oversoul an eBook collection of his prose was released in the summer of 2012. His novel The Residue Years is forthcoming from Bloomsbury USA in the summer of 2013. Find him at www.mitchellsjackson.com.