I was given an assignment in my poetry workshop to write a poem in the voice of a well known persona. Naturally, I chose Tupac; but I tried to take on the subject in a different manner than most people would. I always have seen him as a Romantic--lost in the ideal of his artistic persona and dangerous desires. That being said, hopefully you will see the meaning behind the epigraph from Byron.
This is by no means my best work, and I normally do not venture outside of the confessional lyric mode. Nonetheless, I was pretty happy with the results of this exercise--perhaps because I've always felt a kinship with 'Pac (Romantic nut that I am!), so I could simply use his complex character as a vessel to address the same contradictions I find within myself.
Hope you get some enjoyment out of it. I'd also be interested in any comments, criticisms or suggestions. (Technical note: ignore the dim strings of carat symbols on indented lines--that's the only way this stupid website would stop justifying it back to the left.)
Tupac Shakur Explains Himself
Thomas D. Heard
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^…[T]here is a fire^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^and motion of the soul which will not dwell
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^In its own narrow being, but aspire
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Beyond the fitting medium of desire;
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^And, once but kindled, quenchless evermore,
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Preys upon high adventure, nor can tire
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Of aught but rest; a fever at the core,
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Fatal to him who bears it, to all who ever bore.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^-Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
I was always the realest,
though never real.
The Byronic hero introducing
melodrama to the streets
and the FM dial.
I boasted, “I packed a 9 and my nigga packed a 45,” and
threatened, “You’re ‘bout to feel the wrath of a menace.”
Yet I danced ballet, wrote poetry,
lunched with the supposed foes that my lyrics assaulted.
I could never quite decipher
the nature of women—
they were all Janus figures to me:
tramp one moment, angel the next.
Yet I loved.
The fiancée I left behind is evidence
of the hyperbole in such statements as,
“I ain’t got time for bitches, gotta keep my mind on
my motherfuckin’ riches.”
The riches were nice, sure—
a pretty penny did I spend on suits, cars,
diamonds to adorn my nostril—
the influx of extravagant sums of money is
to a project-raised youth what irrigation
is to a long-thirsting plot of earth.
But the luxuries were never as important to me as
they seem now to those who fancy themselves
my torch carriers.
My true torch was nothing tangible—it was
fire itself, or rather fire’s potential for
the scope variously narrow and vast.
Some might call it passion or romance.
I could only call it “the game”:
the constant, desperate, futile
struggle to beat the odds,
to transcend the world’s inherent monotony
was a word I often used sardonically.
To allay my immense
rage and desire,
I embraced cynicism,
justifying the absence of the ideal.
More than once did I quote, “We ain’t ready
to see a black president.”
Little did I know the speed
with which my dream of equality impended.
I confess, patience
was never a great virtue of mine.
And, indeed, denial
proved an insufficient tranquilizer.
That torch of consumption consumed
me. Plagued by self-consciousness
(woe, that fretful mind of twenty-five!),
no longer could I suffer the gap
between corporeal stasis and aesthetic
on a seraphic metamorphosis, I feasted
on fame, aggression, glory and guns,
taking for granted
the common mortality
Finally in the end,
bullets beatified me.
A rhyming gospel,
fervent in its exploding consonants,
was left behind for fellow seekers of
violently lovely dreams and patrons of rhythm.
^^^^^^^hope beyond hope, rage beyond rage,
^^^^^^^desperately pursue the unreachable stars!—
^^^^^^^though all efforts are in vain,
^^^^^^^“the game” is more real and more alive
^^^^^^^than you are,