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2008-Romare-Bearden-calendar-front2_its a black thing

Man, you gotta see these cats blow,
Saturday night at this joint just
beyond the railroad tracks.
Nothing more than a shack, really.
But, man, does the place hop at one-thirty
in the morning with rye whiskey flowing
and these cats playing and everyone
dressed like they’re headed
for a Sunday morning tent revival.
And, bam! The women! Hitching up and grinding
against you to that big, fat, thumping beat,
that one guy playing his alto so sweet
the ladies almost collapse in your arms,
sweaty, dazed, their crimson lips slightly
parted and willing like bulbs awaiting the bee.

You coming with me?

Good gracious! God, alive! Have you heard
that serpentine sound that has wrapped its evil
coils around our youth, some barely old enough to drive?
And none old enough to ward off that seductive spell,
the primal drums, that howling screech from horns
no Gabriel would ever blow.
I would not believe it had I not been there myself
on Saturday night,
dressed in a sport coat so as not to raise alarm.
I would not believe it, but there it was: the drinking,
the swearing, the constant pounding of rapacious noise
making the youth of our town press against each other,
waist to waist, hip to hip, rubbing and churning
as if together they might resist the Tempter’s charms.

Good God, almighty. Let us pray.

I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the jacket.
Maybe it’s the booze, or the way we jam together.
Maybe it’s how Sonny hits his high-hat or the way
I run my fingers over the keys and put this horn
to my lips, so natural like I was holding it
when I came screaming into this world.
Maybe it’s ’cause it’s so late,
but something gets ’em worked up.
Look at those girls, running hands over their hips
and battin’ their eyes at me when I know full well
they wouldn’t give me a second look on the bus
or at the department store on a Tuesday morning.
Look at that old buzzard in the plaid jacket,
looking at me like he’d just bit into a crabapple!
Look at all them rosy-cheeked college boys,
with their Southern Comfort,
noddin’ and grinnin’ at me like we was brothers.

Damn, these people are strange.


Inspired by I Need Art and Coffee, by Romare Bearden