by Adrian Potter

From Fall 2016

 In dark-haired pompadour glory, body whittled from 
 obsidian – shit, even his trademark scream was black. 

 When James Brown made it funky, everyone sweated, 
 even in wintertime. Traces of the holy ghost rattled 

 through his throat as South Carolina’s soulful son bent 
 his heavy breath around lyrics, coaxed endless grooves 

 from the ancestors of breakbeats. Back when fractured 
 stereotypes represented fault lines splitting our country, 

 Soul Brother Number 1 coached us to be proud and black 
 the same way a man takes darkness and makes it moan 

 like a pretty lady. We, too, are all sex machines, passion 
 lathering over us like concert sweat. Our pigmented skin, 

 our diaspora is not a scourge. How could it be? If we listen, 
 James Brown’s furnace heart still flames posthumously. 

 Furious footwork, call and response yelps, clutching hope 
 like a microphone, hardest working man in show business 

 hunkered over, spent, waiting for his cape. The music’s loud, 
 yes, but James Brown too knows hush: the lull in our battles 

 with desire and demons, the carved space between feeling 
 good and seeking payback, all the emptiness filled, finally, 

 when we believe we can be made whole, that we can get 
 on the good foot and dance our way towards happiness.