A Golden Shovel is a poetry form in which each word of an existing poem becomes the last word of each line of a new poem. It was created by poet Terrance Hayes in honor of Bronzeville’s own Gwendolyn Brooks, based off her classic poem “We Real Cool.” 

After learning about it at a Young Chicago Authors workshop taught by Toaster Henderson, I’ve used it as a means of processing music and writing that sits with me. A particular concept around my art is the recognition of what has been made before me, and much of the art I do is inspired by another artist.

Chicago artist Saba released his second studio album, CARE FOR ME, on April 5, 2018. Much of it paid homage to his cousin, John Walt, who was murdered the prior year. The album speaks on depression, anxiety, and memory in ways that I hadn’t experienced much before. It quickly became my favorite album, and still is, and ultimately pushed me over the edge to make the decision to move to Chicago to live in its remarkably innovative art scene.

This poem is a Golden Shovel based on the last song in that album, “HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME.” It takes the perspective of his late cousin who’s in disbelief of his own murder. One of my hardest struggles in life is envisioning a future with me in it. After coming too close to death too many times and fighting too many institutions that have tried to push me towards it, telling myself that I’m alive has become a daily intentionality. Sometimes, that’s all that I can handle, and that’s okay.

For me, a new and radical future is one where I’m in it with the homies. We’re all okay. We’re all happy. We’re all making things that we want to and showing up late to work and getting no e-mails. While I don’t always know how to maintain that vision for myself, the art and vitality that is made here in Chicago has helped me see that future, and I’m magnificently grateful for it. 

Y e l l i n ‘   a t   m y   m o t h e r   l i k e ,   ” i   k n o w   y o u   h e a r   m e “

G e t   a   l i t t l e   c l o s e r ,   r e p e a t

B u s   d r i v e r   p a s s   m e   u p ,   d o n ‘ t   s e e   m e

P a r a m e d i c s   t a l k   a b o u t   w h a t   h e   n e e d

H e   n e e d   h i s   o x y g e n ,   t h e y   s e e m   i n c o m p e t e n t ,   

i   s e e   t h e   c o n s e q u e n c e

I   w a l k   w h e n   i   c a n ‘ t   h e a r   t h e m ,   t h e y ‘ r e   i n a u d i b l e

I   g o t   u p   l i k e   i   g o t t a    g o ,   f o r e n s i c s   s e a r c h   f o r   f o l l i c l e

 I   p r o m i s e   y ‘ a l l   i ‘ m   n o t   a   g h o s t ,   i   p r o m i s e   y ‘ a l l ,


L O O K:

On my quietest days I’m yellin’ 

From the back of my head at 

Anything that doesn’t make me feel real. My 

Biggest fear is that one day, I’ll have to tell my mother 

About everything in this world that I don’t like.

How everything I know

Is nothing I can know for sure. You 

Hear a ghost in the wind; I hear 

A ghost in me


But when the world around me is at its loudest, things get 

Easier to believe. In fact, I’ve taken a 

Liking to noise. Lots of it. The days that have little 

Going on are ones where myself and I become a bit closer, 

And I’m not a person I want to get to know better right now. I repeat:

Give me more noise and I will show you what I can be with some care. Bus 

Rides are my heaven. An overly nice and talkative CTA driver

Is my guardian angel. I feel the vibrato of voice pass 

Through my skin and it’s all the proof I need that I’m still me.

Not that me is a dude I fuck with, but he’s someone I’d like to look up 

To one day. Don’t 

We all just want to see 

Soft streets paved with gold and reasons all around us to smile? As for me:


That looks like no more work days and lazy paramedics 

That will never have to touch a dead skin cell again. Here I am: I talk 

Of heaven like it’s far away but I know that just about 

Everything around me can be what 

I need it to be. Imagine: a boy prays, and he 

Doesn’t have to walk through hell to get the answers he need.

Imagine: a boy lives, and he 

Doesn’t have to pray that he still will. I need 

To stop calling this depression a sin. That boy needs to get his. 

This world ain’t always gonna let him. I want a God that doesn’t need oxygen, 

Hunger, anxiety, or suffering. They 

Need to let me hug a new good moment here and there. I seem 

To do better when I’m incompetent 

About the bad things in me that I see 

On some days more than others. The consequence

A God gives can tell me all I need to know about it. I walk 


Into my mother’s living room when 

Everything in me wants nothing to do with living and I can’t 

Figure out why, and I hear 

My insecurities telling me it’s too late. I let them

Bad thoughts get to me too much. They’re 

Screaming at me, a choir of inaudible

Demons that I’m giving a chance. I got 

So many days down behind me and up 

In front of me. I like

To think I’ll see each of them. I gotta 

find a God whose heaven is golden and go 

To its church. I gotta find out the forensics 

Of a God that doesn’t make me search 

All over for 

blessings. I want every single follicle

On my body to stay at ease. I promise, 


If I find a good Bible that loves me back, y’all 

will have a good man standing in front of you. I’m not 

Asking for much. I just don’t want to be a ghost. 

I promise 

I exist, y’all


And I want to look

like it, without the halo and wings. 

Please, don’t ever let me forget that 

there’s heaven all around me, 

there’s heaven all around me, 

there’s heaven all around me, 

there’s heaven all around


Davon Clark is a Lit and Layout editor of the Weekly. He likes flowers and the little things in life.

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