How about we take a ride?
Hit me up and we’ll slide
Like a zip-liner on a cable.
Better yet, let’s cruise
Through certain Negro avenues,
All strut and swag in our sweatshop shoes:
The streets unfold in twelve-bar blues.
The night is young yet
And we are calling to collect a debt.
Two, four, six, eight:
See the sisters undulate.
Form follows Funk, so the fog rises
Thick and chocolate as a church girl’s hallelujah hips.
Through the window let’s get lifted while she licks her lips
And rebukes the devil in the name of De Lawd.
In the choir loft, Fats Waller’s ghost grins and leans on the steam.
The organ shivers and the Funk persists
In puddles and alleys, under streetlights and awnings
As echo and mist, until the bright splash of morning.
In the meantime, the tension mounts.
We are bearing witness and taking accounts.
Indeed there will be time and temptations to resist,
Time enough for stop and frisk
And deadlines to be missed.
Time for going and staying,
Time for rushing and delaying
And hundreds and hundreds of hesitations,
Commitments and procrastinations.
It only seems as if it’s getting late.
Linger a while, and pontificate.
“I have seen the best behinds
Of my generation
On BET, in heavy rotation.”
Shall we take our time
And revisit the Problem, the Question,
The Color Line?
The post-racial fences
To be mended?
Shall I leave my blackness unattended?
(“Any suspicious-looking or unattended blackness found in or near trains, planes, stations, vehicles or buildings should be immediately reported to the police.”)
On a whim,
Let’s explore the interim,
The middle ages
Where guts grow round,
And First World wants
Trump Third World needs.
(I used to wish upon a star
For a sweet young thing and a sporty car.
But that was before redlining and subpriming,
Layoffs and buyouts,
And mergers acquired;
That was before my Visa expired.
I have miles to go before I lunch
And time-cards to punch.)
And indeed will there be time
To discover who I am,
To love a woman who gives a damn?
To gesture and reflect
At the crossroads
Where fates intersect?
Who I was and might have been:
The careless youth,
The now and Zen.
What the world owes me
For the tears I’ve spilled,
The investments and the yield.
Indoors and out,
The Funk, like fog, continues to rise
High as the listening skies
Higher even than the cost of living.
The Funk rolls on,
(Within the Funk, a field hand howls
With parched tongue,
Black spells born
When Anansi was young.
Here is where the drummers drum
Enabling ring shout and kingdom come
Enabling hip hop and holy hum
The one o’clock jump and the lindy hop
The bodacious bump and the elegant bop
Here is where the horns holler
Here is where the emcees spit
Here is where the singers wail
Of a love that’s so precious and too big to fail.
Of doo-wops and teardrops and tender regret,
Brand new bags and cold, cold sweat.)
History is young yet.
We are calling to collect a debt.
“This call may be monitored for your protection.”
The mask slips, the grin fades.
The Funk exposes my charades.
I’ve been searching like Kerouac
For something magic, something black.
I have wandered wide-eyed like a drone
From deadly Dixie to the Combat Zone,
I’ve given my harness bells a shake
From Lake Forest to Forest Lake.
Stalking the ’burbs at break of dawn,
I have seen the jockeys on the lawn.
Two, four, six, eight:
If love is theft, then what is hate?
I have heard the Lady with the golden throat
And her big band matching, note-for-note.
Grab a good table, a ringside seat,
Pat your foot and nod to the beat.
On and on and on and on.
See the sisters come and go
While the tricksters stomp and blow
In tails and spats and pork-pie hats.
The cash register rings as the Lady sings
Of black bards and backs scarred,
Hearts broken and lessons learned,
Funk borrowed but seldom returned.
All night long I hear them chant
In joints where the jukebox swings.
All night long their voices carry,
Dukes and counts and kings.
Stepped into history and the waves were cold.
They chilled my body but not my soul.
Nod your head and pat your feet.