Autobiography of the Electric Slide
They told me I fell from the q-tip legs
of a white boy, a sweet one at that. Said he jived
into my mother, the floor; sugar dusted me
in with the long stroke of a silver heel, but how
was I supposed to believe that mess? I knew my daddy
was something hiding in the sky. I heard him
shout my name in the wet wind, when the clouds
went dark-skinned and all them light bulbs start flickering
and God’s mama ain’t yelled at him yet
to stop playing with the switch. He beat
beats into those fat, black drums, told me
to dance hair grease slick on a Sunday
or a Friday or any day that black folks might gather
in someone’s name and sweat/sing/faint.
Sometimes, pops would stick out a white hot hand
too quick to hold, laugh after he snatched it back,
make me move this way, that way, all ways, always
had me moving, sweating for the sweet and shock of his touch
before the sun came back with his rude ass light/truth.
That’s when my daddy disappear, and I live then
in the limbs of sycamore in September colored sinners
seeking salvation, can give up anything for God ‘cept me
they know ain’t nothing sacrilege or secular about me
Devil don’t make nothing this good to you. Have you seen
black folks wrap themselves in me? Could be at a wedding
or grocery store, I strike like the ghost, making bones beg
for wind, for fat and cocoa butter rolling off the skin
for how each step that calls out holy and shake and fire
you seen a woman get happy wherever she remember God?
you’ve seen her dance me. You seen a joy
in the hips. I masquerade any song
into a hymn of boogie, they know me like a spiritual
like tithes, they all know that my name
mean honey on the burn in the body’s language.
When the world ends, the roaches will dance me
while they scream however their kind screams
at the whisper name, good news spread by the first body
that catches the hum of lightning in a leg and they’re off.
Have you ever danced the slide? That’s a dumb question.
Of course you know how I creep into every joint
seduce them to bend in my name. Did you know
they said a white man made me? I’ve been moving so long
don’t remember where I coming from, but when’s the last time
you seen a white boy do this?
BY DANEZ SMITH
Danez Smith is a poet, performer, and playwright from St. Paul, MN. Danez, A Cave Canem fellow, is published in PANK, Illumination, Orange Quarterly, and elsewhere. Danez earned his BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a founding member of the First Wave Hip-Hop Theatre Ensemble. A rising slam poet when not working on page, recently placing 6th in the world at the Individual World Poetry Slam, he enjoys the occasional dance battle with his roommate.