They are like those crazy women who tore Orpheus when he refused to sing, these men grinding in the strobe & black lights of Pegasus. All shadow & sound. "I'm just here for the music," I tell the man who asks me to the floor. But I have held a boy on my back before. Curtis & I used to leap barefoot into the creek; dance among maggots & piss, beer bottles & tadpoles slippery as sperm; we used to pull off our shirts, & slap music into our skin. He wouldn't know me now at the edge of these lovers' gyre, glitter & steam, fire, bodies blurred sexless by the music's spinning light. A young man slips his thumb into the mouth of an old one, & I am not that far away. The whole scene raw & delicate as Curtis's foot gashed on a sunken bottle shard. They press hip to hip, each breathless as a boy carrying a friend on his back. The foot swelling green as the sewage in that creek. We never went back. But I remember his weight better than I remember my first kiss. These men know something I used to know. How could I not find them beautiful, the way they dive & spill into each other, the way the dance floor takes them, wet & holy in its mouth.
Now that my afro's as big as Shaft's
I feel a little better about myself.
How it warms my bullet-head in Winter,
black halo, frizzy hat of hair.
Shaft knew what a crown his was,
an orb compared to the bush
on the woman sleeping next to him.
(There was always a woman
sleeping next to him. I keep thinking,
If I'd only talk to strangers. . .
grow a more perfect head of hair.)
His afro was a crown.
Bullet after barreling bullet,
fist-fights & car chases,
three movies & a brief TV series,
never one muffled strand,
never dampened by sweat--
I sweat in even the least heroic of situations.
I'm sure you won't believe this,
but if a policeman walks behind me, I tremble:
What would Shaft do? What would Shaft do?
Bits of my courage flake away like dandruff.
I'm sweating even as I tell you this,
I'm not cool,
I keep the real me tucked beneath a wig,
I'm a small American frog.
I grow beautiful as the theatre dims.