Darius Simpson
Early 2000s Fashion Was a Confusing Time for All of Us

denim fubu shorts hung low enough to be capris / or pants / or part of the carpet / made me a drooping spectacle in Fall 2007 Study hall / phone clip wiggling against my hip like a love handle / color coordinated two sizes too wide polo / flowing like a loose curtain / in akron during the early 2000s there wasn’t much / you couldn’t find at a corner store as a bootleg version for half the price / trouble with bootlegs is / just like any lie / there are holes where there shouldn’t be / at my high school it was a sin / punishable by death / to be caught wearing bootleg air force ones / you could peep the fakes by slight visual inconsistencies / a missing stitch / lopsided soles loose seams peaking out of random crevices / if you were caught in said shoes the accusers would turn you inside out then drag you bloody through every hall in the building / in a public school district without uniforms / attempting uniformity was both a sure fire way to disappear and the only way to survive / i come from a family of handmedowns / all my best things belonged to someone older taller or wider than me first / in 2007 i copped some bootleg forces from a corner store / i knew the wages of my sin / and the wages my father was not willing to put towards a nice pair of shoes / once i made up my mind / i also knew that backing down was worse than being found out / admitting defeat when there’s still hope / when terrance demanded all the boys bring forth their shoes so he could inspect their authenticity / i herd to the front of the class next to the other cattle up for slaughter / i am convinced that the jig is up / i am prepared to be just as surprised by my fake shoes as they are / i’ve practiced the low hanging jaw of my shocked face / rehearsed who i would blame for gifting me these abominations / i was ready to swear that i too had been deceived / just as i fix my mouth to bend a lie between my lips / rodney stands on a chair in my defense / chest and pockets swelled by hot air and drug money / white tee so clean fluorescent light is singing against it / all white forces so fly he’s floating / said i swear to GOD I know real air force 1’s when I see real air force 1’s and he got on  real  air  force 1’s  if anybody disagree just see me in the parkin lot after school / he believes my fake shoes to be authentic / rather he  believes  he should have the final say on what is real or not /  either way i the 14 year old chameleon / have escaped the slimy grip of social death / while rodney delivers the see me outside sermon to completion / without debate / i live to hide another day / whole time though / i knew damn well where i got them from / knew just how many steps i had left before the outsoles disappeared into gravel / leaving a rubber grid barely holding the patent leather in place / nike swoosh poorly painted and peeling away from the sides / like a busted tire / and i would be back at the corner store on copley rd. / trying to barter with bare bones / promising another $40 I didn’t have / bargaining for some with a little more gloss this time / and a matching tee the size of my older brother / to disguise the misshapen slope of the ankle cushion / the missing shoelace hole on the left side of the right shoe / the blood of a local brown family that owned all the corner stores in ohio / it didn’t matter what you could afford / it mattered how well you could pretend / how much of yourself you could bury / inside of clothes you couldn’t fit.


Found In Volume 49, No. 06
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Darius Simpson
About the Author

Darius Simpson is from Akron, Ohio. He was a recipient of the 2020 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship.  Currently he lives in Oakland, CA where, as a Teaching Artist, he partners with organizations to facilitate writing and performance workshops throughout the Bay Area.