I’m going no place wheels can take me.
My car’s parked, Carolina rain washes
down the unwiped windshield.
Between my knees a djembe. JEM-bay.
A large wooden goblet, a moon of goatskin.
The alpine drops of Jason Moran’s “Rain”
patter from my speakers.
A stream trickles from a trumpet,
drops flick from juddering bass strings.
I tap my curled fingers against the goatskin.
Plashing from a piano,
a brooklet curving across its keyboard.
A talking drum is struck and struck again.
Strings are plucked on a kora,
a halved calabash covered with cow skin.
Entranced by the ballet and keen of my fingers,
the waves rippling down the windshield,
I accept an invitation from Hypnos,
close my eyes to enter a reverie,
setting myself in a darkening forest of spruce
on the edge of a plantation blooming with cotton.
Slaves lay down their sacks,
come dusted from the fields,
seeking the rapture of a ring shout.
My skin is an age-mottled ivory
and bears neither cicatrix nor welt,
so I keep to the shadows,
stand in the tracks of a doe.
I don’t want them to think I’m an overseer
listening for whispers of rebellion and flight,
or a dour Baptist pastor ready to damn
those who would dare cross their feet,
a sign of forbidden dancing,
unrepentant savagery in need of the lash.
Slowly the slaves shuffle and slide
against the moistening earth,
a counterclockwise circle
summoning possession and guidance.
Singers chant a melody through the trumpet,
clap their blistered hands
when brushes sweep across a snare.
A steadier rain, quickening steps,
a maelstrom of staccato and legato,
the stamping and tapping of lacerated feet.
I flatten my palms, cup them,
scratch a trail of water with my fingernails,
splash the thirsty earth with my knuckles.
An ablution of their tears and grit,
a baptismal sprinkling of heaven’s holy water.
Undulating hips, stiffened shoulders, wide-eyed wonder.
Slaves shudder and shout with a spirit’s voice.
A stutter of alpine rain, an altissimo of trumpet,
a drizzle into silence.
Dancers sag into exhaustion,
pad to the fetid air of their crowded quarters.
I open my eyes, hear a guttural cascade
from a rattling rain pipe.
Their clouds have cleared.
My storm has only begun.
Mar 30, 05:14 PMPurchase or Subscribe to Slake: Los Angeles
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