December 25, 2006

Long before the patriot acts
of anthems Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud,
Funky President and Living In America,
you and your Revue were

the only flames the hood could afford,
and by “hood” I mean “nation”
and by “nation” I mean “community”
and by “community”

I mean any one of the various
Black “folk” Americas
within Black America,
the Constitution’s future reframers.

Your famous flames
were not the famous flames
of civil war or civil rights.
These flames were raw chicken guts

and a bewildered next-time fire
of choked chords and percussive horns
Papa lit the behinds
of new bags with.

To quote Sweet Charles, Yes it’s you
the warm globe mourns…
for passing mashed potatoes and peas.
Gimme some more.

No. 1, not because of the hits
but because the roads,
like Augusta, all lead back to you.
Georgia might not-never let us bury you.

The hellish crossroads of black genius
(not geography) left you leathery as Miles.
Not the first to smack-your-bitch-up
and stick-it-to-the-man,

but the first to smack-your-bitch-up,
fine your band, tour Vietnam,
serve two drummers,

fire your band, tour Africa,
save the Boston Garden, endorse Nixon,
rehire your band, sue a rap group
and start a choir in prison.

Pre Hip Hop, you had your own emcee,
your own dancers, your own cape,
Lear jet and crown.
You graduated Super Bad.

Dr. King called it Drum Major Instinct.
Shirley Chisholm,
unbought and unbossed.
Damn right you were somebody!

“These nuts,” that’s what all the Camel Walks,
splits, spins and Popcorns
told those early closed doors.
Get up offa that thang.

Long live your plea please pleases,
Byrd’s brotherly loyalty,
and calling-on Maceo’s licking-stick.
Live at the Apollo laid legend to myth.

Before Hammer Time,
there was a time when “whatsinever” you did,
you did “to death.”
Funky Broadway.

Your eeeeeeeeeeeyow will never rest.
You remain proud, cold bodyheat and sweat,
that muthafucka Black Caesar,
the only one who ever murdered dying.

Wasn’t Jesus born today?
The Big Payback: the Angel Pneumonia
(not escape-ism) calling
the Godfather only halfway home.
What you gon’ play now?

(Harlem, January 2007)