Elijah Elvin

Dear Son, 

Elijah Jordan will be your name,

It symbolizes the divine strength that I hope never leaves you.

Boy, your heart won’t ever grow dark when it comes to feeling love
‘cuz Lucy’s gonna always spoil you with a nourishing light.

She’s a good woman, so follow her words closely, even when they’re harsh.

Like a fire-hot comb on Sunday mornings
is a nurturing mother who tends to a son;
she smoothes out the kinks of her heir.

Your grandma Mona shifts her stress to Caribbean prosody,
she’ll make you a prodigy inside passages of Freddie D’s life story,
now on her way to capture the first master’s degree in our family. 


We immigrated to New York from St. Thomas when I was 9 years old. Crammed ourselves into a
3-bedroom apartment in Bensonhurst, a neighborhood in the most deep part of south Brooklyn.


I was a good kid for the most part,
but by the time I turned 16,
the pottery of poverty
had kneaded a solid strain into the mush of my brain.

I desired a new scenery besides paint-chipped walls or piss-stained elevators.
Eager to get off of food stamps and other government-issued benefits.

So my best friend Rocky and me ran around the city to go from rags to riches.

We started with pushing shopping carts of soda cans to cash in at local supermarkets.

All the pennies linked in between us during pinky-promised handshakes
were eventually replaced by dime bags palmed in fiendish exchanges. 

A lot of street cred was thought to mold our social security.
Security carved in a calloused greed.
Greed fed by the pride felt while cruising in a ‘93 BMW 850i.
Ego fillers like these served as bass-boosted speakers to the public,
to feel the bravado of Black boys’ undeniable presence.

July 11th, 2003
became my independence day
as I was now 18 and had officially dropped out
of high school for skipping too many classes. 


Later that night, we scoped out a bakery
On the corner of 86th Street and Avenue U.
Sicilian-owned, wife hid daily revenue
She kept money safe with 9-7-8-4-3
A concrete jungle’s streets in full vacancy.
At 10, the register was emptied. We knew
I’d be the lookout while Rocky grabbed a few
Bread-filled duffel bags; plan was so savory


As 5 clockwise lock turns creaked, husband’s feet slapped
Down stairs to see 2 thuggish teens stealing. With rage,
He unloaded full clips on Rocky’s kneecaps.
Bagel-sized wounds pushed in from his 12 gauge.
Grabbed my glock, POP! // Husband’s skull had a big gap.
Clutch jammed while riding shotgun, saved by roll cage.


While running back home, my school ID fell out of my wallet.


I didn’t know this would be the eviction notice for my freedom

till the cops kicked down my mom’s door.


Moved to Rikers Island for the rest of my life…

Rikers Island is a jail, my child.


A place unfit for a beam of hope like you,

a man’s laughter is slaughtered here.


The momentum of teenage joy is referred

to shanky two-steps with the devil,

my poked ribs only allowed to cool off in solitary holes.


Left stranded as I stay branded from backhanded scars,

courtesy of fellow bandits who wreck my wiry build’s bandwidth. 


Correctional officers overlook bronze-skinned misconduct,

treasuring my skin’s black-spotted despair.


They hold the agency to smooth out any inmate

that’s representative of what they want us to be:


A pack of dumb niggas that don’t know no better

than to fail at all of time’s trials.


Daily tribulations make our minds go off track,

hanging ourselves out to dry in neck-knotted bedsheets

so another cotton-filled monkey’s brain can take our sunken place.


How can my will to live not be shattered

when I can’t see out of my soul window’s pane?


I wish I could hold you tight to calm the cries of your first breaths.

I wish I could gasp in excitement as you take your first steps.

Who else besides you can wipe the tears I’ve wept?

The least I can do for you is go through the alphabet.




Antics of petty thieves linger in court documents amongst
bitchy bites and baton strikes. Lawyers 

cut the tension of white strong-arm tactics vs.
dangerously darkened skin. 

Eaten away for centuries through the ironed rust of steel chains and bars.
Flexible is the mental stability of single moms forced to

grasp for love through bulletproof glass.
Heavenly cathedrals are the only place a Black woman can scream and be sane.

In ovations, she pleads to wholly protect the young.
Juniors hopelessly destined to lengthen sentences by puncturing lungs.

Know how slippery the slope of loyalty is when
logging a safe’s code for your “best friend”.

Mugshots taken in place of yearbook photos for staying in
nonsense that Mona told me to leave behind.

Offending the state for the first time, I found myself opening empty—
packs of poetic justice. Holding myself back for years with failing

quizzes of interrogation. Misdemeanor classmates–
read blurry visions of soaked corneas,

staring at scarlet letters of cardinal sins.
Tic-tac-toe lines all over my wrists until I can’t feel who wins. However, 

undying is my love for you who doesn’t deserve to see me like this.
Velvet-wrap my coffin, Lord, please lay me to rest sweetly as I’ve

wasted enough time in this hellish cell.
‘xonerate all the grief you can from my loved ones;

yearning for Lucy’s fleeting
zeal to live through our miracle baby’s veins.



Elijah, I’m sorry you had to learn your ABCs like this.

With my last words,
I pray you illuminate this world with Black brilliance
and don’t fall under the shadows of a gunky Negro.


  your father Enoch

Elijah Elvin is a sophomore in Weinberg, hopefully majoring in Black Studies and minoring in Creative Writing. He’s been writing poetry since 2020 and his inspirations include Black art and the Bible. Other hobbies of his are practicing different techniques of poetry from a variety of cultures and listening to music such as soul, R&B, and hip-hop.