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Key to the Dollar Store

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Just tell me who the hell am I?
What powers did I, do I hold?
What right have I to say “my”
or “mine” or “me” — all honey-
glazed, all bullet-proofed and
worshipful of any gangster “I”?

The key to the Dollar Store
hangs on my belt. Yes, “my”
again. And what of roof, of bread,
of loving laughter? What’s in?
My vinyl favorite Booker Little,
vintage, soothes me. He jars
our ears with trumpet joy and
stuff freed folks stash in cabinets.

Never one to make too much of
why we love and what, I love my
powers. I might put you in my will.

Source: Poetry (February 2017)

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This poem originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Poetry magazine

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Key to the Dollar Store

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  • Poet, novelist, and professor Al Young was born in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. He attended the University of Michigan before moving to the San Francisco Bay area, where he earned a BA in Spanish from the University of California-Berkeley.
    Young often reads to musical accompaniment, and his poetry reflects his interest in music, specifically jazz and blues, as well as his life in California. His collections of poetry are Dancing: Poems (1969), The Song Turning Back Into Itself (1971), The Blues Don’t Change: New and Selected Poems (1982), Heaven: Collected Poems 1956–1990 (1992), The Sound of Dreams Remembered: Poems 1990–2000 (2001), Coastal Nights and Inland Afternoons: Poems 2001–2006 (2006), and Something About the Blues: An Unlikely Collection of Poetry (2008).
    Young has written several musical memoirs: Bodies & Soul (1981), winner of the American Book Award; Kinds of Blue (1984); Things Ain’t What They Used to Be (1987); and Drowning in the Sea...

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