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You Don't Know New York featuring "New York State of Mind"

Andre Benz

Dominique Daye Hunter

I was born and raised in the tri-state area of New York City. Passaic County, New Jersey to be exact. And though I moved to Phoenix, Arizona about ten years ago, I still go back east to Jersey and the Carolina’s to visit my family about once every summer.

Being in the southwest sometimes feels like another world. In fact, it is another world. I was talking to a guy I was dating at the time about what it’s like “back home,” meaning Jersey/New York.

“Oh, I know that,” he said rolling his eyes. I nodded at first, but then I remembered that this wasn’t the other guy I was dating that had at least visited New York a couple times. No: this dude had never even set foot on the north eastcoast.

I stopped in my tracks, but it being so long, some of my Jersey crassness had faded. I should have said, “Whaddaya talking about!? You don’t know New York!” And so, I wrote this poem for him, and every other person in other parts of the country or even parts of the world that pretend to know my home without ever setting foot.

“New York State of Mind”

Julia Kramer

You don’t know New York.

But you’d like to think you do, heh?

from watching TV shows about the NYPD

but never knowing the smell of the coffee

in those Greek-patterned, blue deli cups;

or the corruption splattered like

black liquid on sidewalks.

You think you know the City that never sleeps

from reruns of Batman animations

and comic books and movies,

you only imitating our accents

never having heard the thick Jersey dialect

on the lips and tongues of your father and Babushka;

never once realizing they have an accent

until you’ve been gone from home for ten years

because, “Well, that’s just how they talk.”

Gordan McCallum

You say you know Italian cuisine;

and I’m not saying that’s my heritage,

but still, growing up in the tristate

gives you a roundabout license to certify

good Italian food.

Your only reference for Italian food

is a fat cat cartoon

who loves lasagna

and the Olive Garden!

You don’t know of the life:

Heather Shevlin

one fifty a slice,

extra cheesy, round or Sicilian style.

Can you even pronounce Siciliano?

Have you ever even had a cannoli?

...Do you even know what a cannoli is!?

You dream of the New York City that everyone loves:

the one that welcomes immigrants and tourists alike

with hot dogs and the bright lights;

but you don't know the weariness

in your feet after walking 20 blocks

because you couldn’t breathe

and couldn’t take the hot summer subway anymore.

Chanan Greenblatt

You've heard the rivalry

of the Yankees vs the Mets;

But of this I'm sure, I bet:

you don't have memories

of parking under overpasses

infested with pigeons

until one unlucky day

you hear your dad curse and wipe the bird shit

off his head.

Hey-it turned out to be good luck after all: the Yankees won that day.

You have no recollection of late night drives home

over bridges and through tunnels

holding onto souvenirs

that represent paternal love.

Josh Gordon

You brag about diversity with your one black friend

and your love of Mexican food.

You claim inclusion without a thought,

but have never stewed inside the melting pot.

You've never stood outside of Penn Station

walking amongst people

from China, Haiti, and Jamaica

and the smell of cuisine from Poland to Portugal.

You claim to idolize Biggie and Lauren Hill

but never even crossed the Brooklyn Bridge;

never stepped foot in the Apollo

where both pride and fear are swallowed.

Andre Benz

You say you know New York:

bright lights, Broadway shows

Oh, you know the ropes?:

The New Year's ball drop,

horses in Central Park;

but what about the weight of 100 dark nights,

and gray, short days,

and the weight of damp, cold subways,

and the smog that burns your eyes?

What about the crushing weight of oppressive, bitter pride?

Do you know the weight that pulls you down and down

into steaming sewage drains

as your gaze gets lost

amongst a sea of strangers?

Have you sat on the train, watching as you wonder

where all the whales went

and, “When did Jersey City start smelling like that?”

as your mind wanders and fades into a blur

of unused train tracks?

Luke Stackpoole

You don't know the smell

of urine and old pretzels and trash

as you hop back on the path.

You don’t know the melody of a dozen languages

that you may not understand but that breathe life and culture.

You’ve never leaned your head tiredly against

smeared NJ transit window panes

as you think back to granite museum halls

filled with stolen and original art;

as you go back to a home you wonder

how long you can afford,

back to a door of musty wood

that you close behind you

to find the pieces of the peace

you once left behind."

Hannah Manuelito

Dominique Daye Hunter (Black, Sappony/Irish/Polish descent) is a poet/spoken word/hiphop artist, short story writer, and clothing line entrepreneur. She is the co-founder of Indigenous Womxn In Solidarity Empowered + Rising and The LuLu Experience: Festival and Publication. Hunter has her B.S. in Nonprofit Leadership Management with an emphasis in American Indian Studies, and lives between the southeast + southwestern U.S. Follow her journey on Instagram @ddayehunter.

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