I Feel Good

Paul Spella / The Atlantic

On the occasion of the state of South Carolina taking control of the $100 million James Brown I Feel Good Trust, willed to the education of needy students, and after the death of Prince

Whores raised him with intellect
and savoir faire, teaching:

pack your fragrant pants proper
like a mattress, stock the edges

for comfort, with newspaper
headlines & purple velvet cock feathers,

scrupulously tilt the tucked
microphone like it’s your johnson,

hips travel best when horizontal of how
the crow flies, keep spinning and splendor

in your daily moves, know sound
is gilt-edged & saturnalian like lightning,

meant to enter but never land, cotton-slide
your closed eyes all the way back to Watusi land;

caterwaul & amplify,

exalt yourself on your backside,
spell yourself out with your alligator feet,

the world will prefer you in heels,

when you open up the door
sport hot curls and a sexy cape,

drop to your knees before, during, and after
the end of every song,

clothes are tight for a reason,
sweat is money in any season,

men pretending to be wallflowers
are all ears and antsy in the parlor,

straining at the bit
for you to finish your dying.

This poem appears in Nikky Finney’s book, Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry: Poems and Artifacts, published in the spring of 2020 by Northwestern University Press.