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Sunday, February 13, 2011


by John Paul Davis

Twelve haunts, each the spirit of a Black Panther, skimmed
the 1970s, scooping the sting & sass from a dozen
soul singers' voices but flew too quickly, curdling
the gathered choir until they trilled double-time,
trebled as birdsong. You had to expect God
would be involved. He pinched two ends of Atlanta
together & dropped the wriggling result
onto the sizzling platter of Chicago
massaging the asphalt until it squealed like slamming
brakes. Some say the last breath
of Louis Vuitton was trapped in an absinthe
bottle by Napoleon III as it strained toward the walk-in closets
of heaven.That might be the phosphorent
lime fog swamping behind his sunglasses
or it might be everything an electromagnet
could siphon from the analog synthesizers
bickering like alley cats under Thom Yorke's tongue.
We know for certain one of Will Smith's bicuspids
went missing & someone spotted Loki
in Philly that night with dental pliers. Anger,
so much anger, pacing its cage, wicking
out in tendrils from time-release pills. Restless.
Shatterproof. Saltfire. Clatterbone. Sheet stain. Heat
lightning. Cardboard cutout. Skyrocket
dropout. Elevated castout. Open door. Heartroar.

Downpour. Beyonce's masterpiece gets ignored. Another white
girl takes home the award. Maybe MTV's bartender
had a heavy pour or maybe Yeezy
figured he could afford another scandal,
that he could always fall on his sword but Black music
needed someone to step forward & switch the spotlight
to the racism still driving the music business. It ain't right
-30 years after "Billie Jean" & Blacks are still passed
over or branded crazy when glanced at by the limelight.
Or maybe Kanye wasn't thinking at all that night. Are you less
of a jerk if you're right? Example: did anyone doubt
Ye's insight: George Bush doesn't care about Black people? What the hammer,
what the anvil that forged Kanye with the power to wound
the President's ego? What fire roils in his belly? Someone says
Jehovah bit his tongue battle-rhyming Satan & when he spit verses
his blood & kisswater curdled in the dust & a new son of man
helixed out of the earth. The moment he was conceived
Gil Scott-Heron was sighing into a microphone,
Quincy Jones was conspiring with a scarecrow
to steal back disco from white folks,

nets were stretched in New York's night sky
& every flashpop of a paparazzo's camera
was caught like diamond bats as they flapped spaceward
then wrung out to glitter his sweat. Did Michael
wing a gloved hand over the scene of the accident
steps away from a Hollywood W Hotel triggering
Kanye's broken heart back to spitting fight? Secretly
his mother fed him a diploma in microscopic
flakes mixed in to a childhood of suppers
until his cerebral cortex rattled against bars
like a caged dictionary. He swallowed an engagement
ring & it scourges him from the inside. There is a silent syllable
between breakbeats woven from ribbons of that blood,
spoiling for a fight, brilliant in its arrogance, heavy
as all the gold that still remembers the sweat
from summer days when it used to be lead.

John Paul Davis’s poems have been published in print and online journals such as RATTLE, The Columbia Poetry Review, WordRiot, Apparatus, The Cordite Poetry Review. He was a 2009-2010 writer in residence with Vox Ferus. Currently he is the video curator and projection designer for The Encyclopedia Show in Chicago, a founding member of Real Talk Avenue, a regular contributor to The Paper Machete. He is editor and designer of Bestiary Magazine.