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.