He Ain’t Got Eyes for All That

an excerpt from a new novel by
MALIK CRUMPLER | Rapper + Novelist


“He Ain’t Got Eyes for All That” is a chapter from my novel in progress, Rappers Anonymous. The narrator is Malcolm Monk’s deceased grandmother. She’s inspired by my grandmother’s everyday southern style of storytelling. I attempt to show the detailed ways in which our ancestors critique, observe and inspire us. In that, they tell our story, just as we tell theirs.

MALCOLM MONK believes most folks back in New York call him arrogant. Arrogant, but brilliant. Crazy, but transcendental. Damaged, but genius. Damaged, yes. But genius? Child, please. Most folks in New York don’t call him nothing. Almost nine million people in New York, ain’t it? And ain’t but thirty or forty of them know him to be a poet. They ain’t got no time to be coming up with petty titles for him. But don’t get Malcolm started on all his haters in New York City. He blind like that.

Now, don’t lock the casket on him just yet. He actually can see things just fine. He been done swept this here venue two to three times already. Seen everybody chatting it up, in all them different languages, he don’t know. He loves listening to languages he don’t know, it provides him with less auditory distractions. Makes him feel like he new to the world. A strange stranger. Almost feel innocent.

Let me not say that cuz he don’t believe in innocence. It make his stomach flinch just to see what look like it. He say to himself, Ain’t nothing innocent, ever. They all guilty of the insecurity of youth, critiquing all the art on the walls cuz they ain’t got to the point where they see the art critiquing them. The frame is mirror, the man made image is Rorschach. They stay looking without seeing. Drinking without tasting… Tasting without getting drunk.

He keep on, Parisians dress like waiters. But at least they honest; simple jeans, simple shirts, simple off-brand shoes. Divinely discreet. New Yorkers dress like magazines and movies tell them to, then call theyselves unique and original. Walking advertisements.

He ain’t always been like this. His thirties been mean on him, he like to believe. Truth is, he been his own worst enemy. Sabotaged his marriage and rap career over all that bling, blind to his own shine.

Now his nerves won’t let him enjoy nothing, not even food. He like to not believe that but look how his clothes just hang off his body, veins all thick in his neck and forearms, bones ‘bout to split the skin, skin dull and ashy. He call it, ascetic chic. He pride himself on looking like a real monk. Look to me more like a man who can’t let nothing go. Won’t let a mistake be a mistake and move on. He just don’t know how to let himself do it. Everything is something else to him. He just can’t let nothing be what it is. He say, That’s cuz nothing is what it is. Now that’s what really got him looking like that. He just ain’t got eyes for seeing what is.

I tell you what he is, he sweating like a thief, and that just ain’t on account of the humidity in Republique today. It’s on account of the temperature of his shame. Shame rules everything around me, Scream get the money, debt, debt, debt y’all. That’s one of them songs he made back before he quit rapping. He like to believe rap quit him. He hate thinking about it. He hate hating himself.

He used to be a big man, well fed and strong, like all us Monks. But then that girl put a starve-him rut on him. Five years it been eating his him, carving away at his strength, digging his cheeks out, hollowing his eyes, drawing his skin to his bones, uglying him up. That’s why he called his last book, The Immesurable Ugly Of Beauty. That’s really what the rut was all ‘bout, making him see himself and everything else in the world as worse than ugly: disgusting. 

He been so disgusted ‘bout life this past decade, but he don’t let it show, he strong like that. He hold his gates. Monks always knowed how to hold they gates. We gate-keepers. And that’s saying everything. Cuz when them gates bulge, they bulge to burst and when they break… Lord, only Noah knows.

Enjoy more of Malik’s work at his website, malikameer.com.
Photograph by Alice Donovan Rouse