I should mention that I stole that title from the great poet Cornelius Eady. "The Gathering Of My Name" is the best meditation on black fear that I've ever read. The way he ends running "in an old story" and "now you learn your name is so powerful. You can check it out here.
I'm also re-posting "Victims Of The Latest Dance Craze," one of my favorite poems, bar none, after the jump. It's also by Eady. Buy the man's books. He's incredible.
Victims of the Latest Dance Craze
The streamers choking the main arteries
The brass band led by a child
From the home for the handicapped.
The old men
Showing their hair (what's left of it),
The buttons of their shirts Popping in time
To the salsa flooding out
Of their portable headphones,
And mothers letting their babies
Be held by strangers.
And the bus drivers
Taping over their fare boxes
And willing to give directions.
Is there any reason to mention
All the drinks are on the house?
Thick, adolescent boys
Dismantle their BB guns.
Here is the world (what's left of it),
In brilliant motion,
The oil slick at the curb
Danced into a thousand
The bag ladies toss off their
To reveal wings.
"This dance you do," drawls the cop,
"What do you call it?"
We call it scalding the air.
We call it dying with your
And across the street
The bodies of tramps
In a sober language.
And across the street
Shy young girls step behind
Their nameless boyfriends,
Twirling their skirts.
And under an archway
A delivery boy discovers
His body has learned to speak,
And what does this street look like
If not a runway,
A polished wood floor?
From the air,
Insects drawn by the sweat
Alight, when possible,
On the blur
It is the ride
Of their tiny lives.
The wind that burns their wings,
The heaving, oblivious flesh,
Mountains stuffed with panic,
That can't make up its mind.
They drop away
With the scorched taste
And under a swinging light bulb
Invent a game
With the shadow the bulb makes,
And the beat of their hearts.
They call it dust in the mouth.
They call it horse with no rider.
They call it school with empty books.
In the next room
Their mother throws her dress away to chance.
It drops to the floor
Like a brush sighs across a drum head,
And when she takes her lover,
What are they thinking of
If not a ballroom filled with mirrors,
A world where no one has the right
In a parking lot
An old man says this:
"I am a ghost dance.
I remember the way my hair felt,
Damp with sweat and wind.
When the wind kisses the leaves, I am dancing.
When the subway hits the third rail, I am dancing.
When the barrel goes over Niagara Falls, I am dancing.
Music rings my bones like metal.
O, Jazz has come from heaven," he says,
And at the z he jumps, arcing his back like a heron's neck,
And stands suddenly revealed
As a balance demon,
A home for
We have all caught the itch:
The neon artist
Wiring up his legs,
The tourist couple
Recording the twist on their
And in a factory,
A janitor asks his broom
For a waltz,
And he grasps it like a woman
He'd have to live another
Life to meet,
And he spins around the dust bin
And machines and thinks:
Is everybody happy?
And he spins out the side door,
Avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk,
Grinning as if he'd just received
The deepest kiss in the world.
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is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power