top of page

I was Sixteen

by Matthew J. Lawler

I awoke,

to see myself face buried in the asphalt

of Montrose and Central Park.

I was on my bike that night when I felt my life

slam to the ground as if I had fallen from a tightrope.

My body convulsed.

I saw the reaper flex his sickle

and I fell deep into the sounds of people passing

asking questions about my passing.

My name is Angel Ponce.

The pigs got me when I was sixteen.

They shot me in the side of the head.

My body started twistin’ and turnin’

my heart raced like a jackhammer.

Foam oozed from my mouth

and blood, my Puerto Rican blood soaked

the cracks like a flood in the blacktop.


Why did they do it?

Well I was playin’ games

with the neighborhood gang on Cullom.

I was no hoodlum,

I just needed something more than an empty basement

so escaping to the pavement

became a means to escaping loneliness.

My mom was always gone, she was the breadwinner.

She worked two jobs with no benefits.

My step dad flipped burgers at the Elston diner

and drank a case of Old Style every night.

So while they were away, I would chill in the neighborhood.

Smoke some bud.

I rolled a fat blunt with a Phillies,

kind of treasured it, put a big ass smile on my face,

gave me a sense of accomplishment

like I had something to give the world,

but coming from the gutter made me wonder

if I could succeed at anything.


The odds were definitely stacked against me.

The dicks would roll down the block,

Officer Brickowski jumps out the passenger side screaming,

“Get your hands on the fuckin’ hood you pieces of shit!

Spread’ em, where’s the weed at?”

I had a dime bag on me and as soon as 5-0 pulled up

I put it in a book of matches right behind

the matchsticks and tossed it in the grass.

Officer Brickowski’s getting pissed.

He starts friskin’ me, desperate to find something.

He pads my arms moving down to my pockets

putting his hands in my pockets until I squirmed.

I couldn’t help but laugh cuz’ he was all up on my shit!

That really seemed to piss him off.

“You think this is funny, huh?

You think this shit is funny?”

He then started squeezin’ my nuts, shaking them

in the palm of his clutched hand.

I was hunched over on the hood of the Crown Victoria,

coughing and wheezing, wheezing and coughing.

My eyes started to tear up, but I just fought the tears off,

I didn’t want to look weak in front of the gang.

These damn narcs take a little bit of weed too seriously.


Later on that night I took my Redline out for a spin,

Gonna’ stop by my boys crib for his 19th b-day party.

I’m riding up Central Park

near Drake Bowl about to pass the alley

when a narco flyin’ down the alley goin’ 60mph,

slammed his Crown Victoria into me

sending me flyin’ through the air

like a bird with broken wings falling from its nest.

I hit the concrete and heard thunder.

I got up and started runnin’ away.

I don’t know why, but honestly I was just scared,

flashbacks to earlier with Brickowski

and the “ball grab” incident didn’t seem to help.

Instinctively I gave a backward glance

and as soon as I turned my head backwards,

Pop!! Pop!!

Two gunshots fired,

One hit the side of my head and I fell to the street instantly.


Thoughts of my mother…


The smell of her hair.

The smell of the arroz con gandules

and chuletas fritas she would cook up for us

before she left for her second job.


I thought of my sister and her two kids,

my little nephews, who I won’t be able to tuck in at night.

No more Saturday morning cartoons.

They loved “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends,”

we used to run around our basement slinging webs.

No more hide and seek.


Thoughts of my family flooded my head

like my blood flooded the crevices in the blacktop.


I looked up for a moment and it was Brickowski,

asking where the weed was


Matthew J. Lawler is a self-taught poet and writer. He was raised on the northwest side of Chicago(Irving Park neighborhood) He has been writing poetry since his teenage years. He relies on experience, imagination, and memory to compose poems. His work has appeared in People's Tribune, visual verse and forthcoming in unlost journal. You can find him on Facebook at

bottom of page