Shauna Barbosa on "Taking Over for the ’99 and the 2000"
Taking Over for the '99 and the 2000
Embraced only by fire hydrants
our preteen lives
how we knew them: the girls got boys,
the boys got money.
Peace to the faces
of boys who have now been shot dead.
Others deported to the warmer climates
of Praia, of Fogo.
Peace to the gorgeous good hair girls
now birthing boys texting boys and
de-viced or devised, we're all online thinking,
Who the fuck can throw a better looking
baby shower than me?
Uploading took over the 2000's
children of immigrants taking the best
parts of being unparented in Roxbury
and making them worst.
On "Taking Over for the '99 and the 2000"
I think a lot about my inability to remember specific details surrounding my childhood. I have no recollection of being a child, my thinking always felt so far ahead of my reality. This is not a brag. More a misfortune? But of course, I was a child. And there are memories. And I never know what to do with them when they show up at my door. "Taking Over for the '99 and the 2000" began as "Childhood Remembered on Instagram." I remember and I don't. What is this poem if not a plea? If not a performance of memory. I can place feelings before specific acts. I hate Instagram except I think about my disappearing acts and who I will be if I am not an image. Proof of purchase.
"Taking Over for the '99 and the 2000" is a line borrowed from the 1998 song, "Back That Ass Up" by the rapper Juvenile. The opening line of the first verse goes, Girl you working with some ass, yeah, you're bad, yeah. This poem is the ultimate selfie:
Working with some water, yeah.
Working with deported boys, yeah.
Working on my phone, yeah.
Working in competition, yeah.
Working on a flawless photo not once thinking of
What our parents looked like seeing snow or a paycheck for the first time,
We were born in America. We are the parents.
I had a specific summer day in mind when I reference fire hydrants in the first stanza of "Taking Over for the '99 and the 2000." It felt like the best day of my life. Me, my sister, cousins, the kids in our hood—we rode our bikes through the hydrant water, we ran through the pressure, we pushed each other to wetness. We laughed in circles.
Now we laugh in battery life. I wrote this poem hoping to find out if the same person who turned the hydrant on for us, is the same one who turned it off. Because joy is a gift every child deserves.