The Colour of James Brown’s Scream

by Kayombo Chingonyi

The Colour of James Brown’s Scream

I have known you by many names

but today, you are Larry Levan,

your hand on the platter, in the smoky

room of a Garage regular’s memory.

You are keeping When Dove’s Cry

in time, as you swing your hips,

and sweat drips from your hair

the colour of James Brown’s scream.

King of King Street, we are still moving

to the same sound, though some

of us don’t know it is your grave

we dance on, cutting shapes

machismo lost to the beat

—every road man is a sweetboy

if the DJ plays Heartbroken

at just the right time for these jaded feet.

Teach us to shape-shift, Legba,

you must know I’d know your customary

shuffle, that phantom limp, anywhere;

that I see your hand in the abandon

of a couple, middle of the floor,

sliding quick and slick as a skin- fade

by the hand of a Puerto Rican clipper-man

who wields a cutthroat like a paintbrush.

Let us become like them, a moving ode

to sweat, ordering beer in a corporeal

language from a barman who replies

by sweeping his arms in an arc,

Willy Ninja style, to fix a drink our lips

will yearn for, a taste we’ve been

trying to recreate ever since.