SWEAR :: Poems by Albuquerque Poet Laureate Hakim BellamyIn his debut collection of hard-hitting poems, inaugural Albuquerque Poet Laureate Hakim Bellamy addresses the issues important to our day—politics, work, and art.

Bellamy moves from a free-thinking attitude of deliverance to a provocative new space where the reader can reflect on the poet’s inquisition of the 1%, working class life in urban and rural America, and the transcendent value of hip hop as one of our top exports and global contributions.


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SWEAR politicizes the human condition in a manner that balances the abstract with the concrete. Bellamy’s work is polemic like Amiri; satiric like Nietzsche; iconoclastic like Mao; passionate like Neruda. Ministering without preaching, Bellamy’s sense of metaphor whistle-blows on the top-down without fear of consequence.

Bruce George
Co-Founder of Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on HBO

The first book of the first Poet Laureate of Albuquerque speaks the volume of that city. The voice in these poems is one long shout-out for intelligence, astute political observation, listening to the times and returning to us a voice for generation, three oh, but don’t say it.  If you’ve heard Hakim, the poems are scored to the music of his tempo, from praising Etta James to talking to Hip-hop, he knows his times, yet speaks to us all straight across with no fear.

Joan Logghe
author of The Singing Bowl and Santa Fe Poet Laureate, 2010-2012

Bellamy is one of the strongest voices of a generation that blew away the lines between poetry and song. These poems are lyrics of oppression and resistance. Bellamy calls the politicians, bankers, corporate leaders and other malefactors of our time by name and calls them out in cadences that were set in hip hop and tuned in jazz. His wit cuts, and his love sings. Do not deprive yourself of this poet.

A.B. Spellman
former Deputy Director of the National Endowment for the Arts and author of Four Lives in the Bebop Business and Things I Must Have Known, a poetry collection

Hakim Bellamy is a man engaged with the world. His words are more direct than lyrical. His poems are warning signs, headlines and prescriptions. From government to Occupy-the economic and political blues finds Bellamy wearing Langston’s hat and coat. Here is the same type of urgency Hughes felt in the 1930s after the Harlem Renaissance. Today our eyes turn to Albuquerque. SWEAR will tell you what’s coming next.

E. Ethelbert Miller
Author, activist, and director of the African American Center at Howard University

SWEAR is the physical embodiment of life in the digital age. Bellamy leaves no modern experience undisturbed. His observations, calling upon historical documents, economic structures, and political games, work to examine social and cultural norms that aren’t so normal. Swear’s themes cut through cultural, ethnic, and gendered models to thread together the human occurrences that binds us all while unveiling a pattern of institutional and systemic change. Bellamy creates an active reading experience, compelling the reader to envision how each word, clause, and statement speaks to a 21st century world, without the blinders of complacency and with an eye towards hope. Beyond simple rhetoric and a pithy turn of phrase, Bellamy takes the time to give voice to an America that is often overlooked. He embeds himself in each work, without making the works about him. I highly recommend this book.

Sonia Gipson Rankin
Associate Dean, University College
Lecturer, Africana Studies
University of New Mexico

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Letter to Hip Hop 1

Dear Hip Hop
open your speakers
so you can speak “us”
hear us

we are what you look like
in the morning
good morning
from the kids you never slept on

chased Boogie Monsters out of our imagination
through headphones
the ones I snuck
under sheet music
when mom banished the TV from my bedroom

from the generation that considered silence
you lullabyed us
pops worked two jobs so I could buy you

and I knew
when I grew up
I wanted to be just like you
the bastard love child of Gospel and Rock
you are what Blues turned into
just to get hitchhikers to pick her up

a wax museum of classic sculptures
that never so much as flinched
when they called you “vulture”

you’re the swan song of ugly ducklings

with your puberty of percussion
you turned awkward into popular
for many an acned b-girl
and four-eyed beat boxer

for all the kids
who couldn’t play
football, basketball or soccer

the same kids who
stayed up all night
playing Halo
and make believe movies of mobsters

but your competition’s a little more honest
two heartless sleeves in a steel cage match
soul, saliva and spit
sprawled across the celebrity death rap

we fight the way you taught us
in the absence of battered mothers
and abusive fathers
we became deadbeat authors
break beat martyrs

the music of your generation
resurrected in HI-DEFinition audio

Dear Hip-Hop
we bomb these letters

upside the womb of your Manhattan Projects
we are your Trinity products
however, nonviolent
the kids who are still feeling you
in Hiroshima and Nagasaki


There are few things more difficult
than getting lipstick
out of a blue collar
for a few things
we work
work like
lipstick on a blue collar
like three jobs
and the sex
we still can’t afford
to have
like a sex worker
fancy feet fantasies
of strawberry toes
dipped in fondue faces
while we rest
in the heel of society
I will never
let him have my feet
of running
and standing
instead of lying down

That pill
drug skid marks
down my esophagus
after kicking
and screaming
‘cross my tongue
took my longest finger
out of me
at 6 o’clock
erected it
to twelve
and shoved it past
his sleeping nose
there is nothing sexy
about eye sockets.
when the perpetrator
sleeps over
it’s date rape
whether the patron
or not

my arms
are longer than his sentence
rivet strong and smooth
for fastening
the maturation of
baby boys
to Maybe Men
other times
for the quickening
of the removal
of his sternum
from my bosom
maybe baby
maybe not
these arms
do not belong to him
they are open
to me

My ankles
were pregnant
with desperate housework
when I collared him
lipstick I did not recognize
perfume I did
but did not blame her for being a victim
did not blame my hands
for refusing to wash
anymore of his fucking shirts
did not blame god
for leaving my daughter’s father
and his patriarchal paycheck
for putting my baby girl
on my back
putting food and shelter
on my shoulders
making my living
off my ass
my brain
cannot be judged by its cover,
my complexion, nor my circumstance
not where I clock in
or clock out
I have a degree
in sociology
and survival
and only one
is coming in handy

My daughter
is my body of labor
a woman now
born from my rib
pushed from my pelvis
apple of my Eve
I named her “Eden”
she has nested with serpents
seen me
serve leg, thigh and breast
to a tapeworm society
that cannibalizes its women
she’s seen
my serviceable body parts
used to fill their holes
she’s seen my heart overlooked
cast plate-side
like a gizzard
she’s seen them
eat me
from the inside

she barely remembers
my housewife days
of not lifting a finger
to her father
and him
putting himself
where ever he wanted
his fists
as hard as he wanted
and I chose
bait instead of bitch
I chose pussy
instead of prison
because I rather teach her
teach her
that there is dirt
underneath every French manicure
that working girls
get their ass kicked for a living
that’s a choice for some
less of a choice for others
but so is getting your ass kicked
for love
for life
teach her
the difference between sale and sacrifice
is the cost and the price
like the difference between
pay equity and fair wage
teach her the difference between
high risk career
and poor life choices
that either way we have rights
even when they put their palms
over our voices
I taught her that
I’d rather give the street
what her father repeatedly took
even pride
what she learned from me
is the value of her body
for better or for worse
she learned not to stay for bullshit
like “relationships take work”
work takes work
and work consists
of whatever a body
is obliged to do.

SWEAR :: Poems by Albuquerque Poet Laureate Hakim BellamyHakim Bellamy became the inaugural poet laureate of Albuquerque on April 14th, 2012, at age 33. He was the son of a preacher man (and a praying woman). His mother gave him his first book of poetry as a teen, a volume by Khalil Gibran.Many poems later, Bellamy has been on two national champion poetry slam teams, won collegiate and city poetry slam championships (in Albuquerque and Silver City, NM), and has been published in numerous anthologies and on inner-city buses. A musician, actor, journalist, playwright and community organizer, Bellamy has also received an honorable mention for the Paul Bartlett Ré Peace Prize at the University of New Mexico. Bellamy is the founder and president of Beyond Poetry LLC. For more information on the author, please visit www.hakimbe.com.
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SWEAR :: Poems by Albuquerque Poet Laureate Hakim Bellamy

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SWEAR :: Poems by Albuquerque Poet Laureate Hakim BellamySWEAR is available through West End Press. A small, fiercely independent publisher with more than 35 years and 100 titles to its credit, West End stands, and fights, for the working, the oppressed and the struggling. Hakim is proud to be published in alongside such poets as Pablo Neruda, Don West and Meridel le Sueur.

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