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[06] If You"se A Viper E-mail
Viper Mad
Wednesday, 28 December 2005 05:50
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Part VI

"If You'se A Viper"

'One of my friends,' Mezz sez,
'a fine musician,
cornered me one day. "Man,"
he said, "They can say

what they want about us vipers,
but you just dig them lushhounds
with their old antique jive. A lot
of ofay liquor-heads,

when they come up here
& pass the jug around,
half of them will say
they had enough

'cause some spade
just took a drink out of it,
& those that do take it
will hem & haw

tryin' to rub the top
off the bottle
so's you can't see them,
'fore they put it to their chops.

"Now with vipers it's different.
You don't have to pass a roach
to a viper, he'll take it
right out of your hand

& go to puffin' on it
not even thinkin' about
who had it in his chops
before." Most of us

were getting our tea
from some Spanish boys
who kept coming up from Mexico
with real golden-leaf, the best

that could be had. Poppa,
you never smacked your chops
on anything sweeter
in all your days of viping. It had

such a wonderful smell
& the kick you got
was really out of this world. I laid it
on the cats in the Barbeque,

& pretty soon all Harlem
was after me
to light them up. Before I knew it
I had to write to our connection

for a large supply, because everybody I knew
wanted some. "Just think how many cats
you can make happy,"
they kept saying. Before I knew it,

I was standing on The Corner
pushing gauge. Only I did
no pushing. I just stood
under the Tree of Hope,

my pokes full up,
& the cats came & went,
& so did all my golden-leaf. Overnight
I was the most popular man in Harlem,

& I was to become known
as The Reefer King,
The Link Between The Races,
The Philosopher,

The Mezz,
Poppa Mezz, Mother Mezz,
Pops' Boy,
The White Mayor of Harlem,

The Man About Town,
The Man That Hipped The World,
The Man That Made History,
The Man With The Righteous Bush,

He Who Diggeth The Digger,
Father Neptune. New words
came into being
to meet the situation: lozies

& lozeerose were coined
so guys could refer to my gauge
without having anybody else
dig it, & some of our musician pals

used to stick these hip phrases
into their songs
when they broadcast over the radio,
because they knew we'd be huddled

around the radio in the Barbeque
& that was their way
of saying hello to me
& all the vipers.

That mellow Mexican leaf
really started something in Harlem 
a whole new language,
almost a whole new culture.'

'That's one reason
why we appreciated pot,' Pops sez,
'the warmth it always brought forth
from the other person. On the West Coast

one night this fine ofay musician
(a good one) whose father
was a big judge down south
showed me this sack. It was full of gage

in the rough dirty looking
& had to be cleaned. He said 'Louis
this muta came from out of the back yard
where the chickens trampled all over it,

so it should be well seasoned.' He & I
went to the hotel
over on Central Avenue,
rolled up our sleeves,

cleaned it real beautifully
& rolled up one a piece. We dragged on down
halfway to a 'roach'
& he was right. When we got on down there

we could taste the cackling,
the crowing
& the other things
those chickens did. Beautiful.

'Then I left the coast 
arriving home in Chicago
on a Sunday morning.
The door bell rang.

I went to the door
& found one guy standing there,
pointing towards four other youngsters
getting out of the car. I said Boys,

I'm very glad to see you. It's been a long
long time. One cat
pulled out a big 'bomber' 
lit it took two drags

& looked straight into my eyes
as he passed it to me, saying,
Pops, we all feel
you could use this stick

after all you've bcen through. I said,
Aw boys,
Y'all didn't have to do this,
reaching for that joint

at the same time. Each of them
pulled out
a stick a piece
& started blowing.'