For Sam

And courage, courage is what is called for to explore
the outskirts of the city, where the disinherited abide,
and trouble is a form of entertainment, as are bruises and broken glass,
in regions so remote from the centre they’ve shed their street names;
few know; fewer care; I found out because I copped a ride in the back of the van at 2 a.m.
when the crew was setting out to shoot the bust scene of South Bronx Crew.
The equipment malfunctioned; the lights, what happened to the lights?
Whose fault was it? It was too late to wonder whose fault it was.
Something had to be done, now. The director was forced
to think fast. In the pitch-black silence punctuated by the sounds
of loud mufflers and hoarse-voiced shouts, he ordered the actors
to do it anyway and before they could complain aimed
the headlights in their direction called out ‘action’ –
and ran – as the camera panned toward him and the other plain-

clothed detective: the cops were on top of it, the drug
dealer caught red-handed in a no man’s land above East 160th St;
it was so late it no longer mattered, there was time
for another take; the pace accelerated and they caught the shock
on the head honcho’s face as the self-satisfaction and conceit drained
away, along with his life, and he didn’t like it.
It had been one thing to deal, another to kill, to order
others to kill for him; then to kill the assassin who failed
in his mission. For years, not a hitch, then, in an instant
everything went bad. The twenty-year-old director got all this
and more, within five minutes. Blink – and you miss the gist.
It’s happened before, in every art, the newcomer’s mind is focused
on getting it done: innovations are the province of desperate men, time time
and time again.

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