P J Williams


My shit is deep,
Deeper than my grave, G.
I'm ready to die

& nobody can save me.
Fuck the world, fuck my moms & my girl—
my life is played out like a jheri curl—

I'm ready to die.

—The Notorious B.I.G.

This street & these streets & each corner of the world are all part of the armory: barrels rifled to spiraling & spiraling through. Money keeps the aim true & the red dot laser stays on the body long after your pockets empty onto the ground or into the six-foot sky. Nobody cares about a hairstyle when the gun or the money is to your head or if a fistful of cream burns for warmth just as easily as the dumpster down the block. The idea of anything permanent plays out like lyrics: at some point, an end or at least a fade & now after records people can just skip to what they want to hear. My mother cooks herself into the stories of country music & my girl can't keep the baby from crying out in the night, which means she can't keep the neighbors from rippling their fists against the wall. When I tell you I'm ready to die, I'm not telling you to kill me & I'm damn sure not saying save me. I'm telling you to watch: how the same story from the same .45 lays itself out on the ground under the speakers. & how this block packed hard with buildings is a wall that passes the story echoing on to the next one, the reverb forcing open the mouth until the jaw breaks again.




They heard about the Rolexes and the Lexus
with the Texas license plates outta state—
they heard about the pounds
you got down in Georgetown
& they heard you got half Virginia locked down.

—The Notorious B.I.G.

Alexander was just a kid with a sword & a shield who thought the edge of the world was just around the corner. I, too, have made my own map. I march the beat out along the front line where the ear drums across the asphalt. Shadows have a way of convincing the eye of anything. This place is all corners out & corners in, one long knife carving hiding places in concrete. Sing the chorus slow: Walk on by. Walk on by. Walk on by. If I seem broken in two, remember that this is not a one-way street. When we were kids, we kept ourselves from stepping on the cracks. We still fear for our mothers but now with all this new breaking down, we keep our feet on the fault lines, our soles meant to sew the streets together. What beasts must lie underneath. What spreading between each line & the sound that holds me together.




These poems were composed while listening to the songs they reference in an attempt to adopt some of the rhythms and ideas Biggie worked with in his music. I'm interested in how he deals with place in his songs and how he renders himself inseparable from his neighborhood in Brooklyn. To listen to the songs, follow the links below:

"Ready to Die": [link]

" Warning": [link]