Frank X Walker

The Invention of the Slow Dance

before they plucked us out of our own shit
and vomit, unhinged us from their ships
then rechained us to each other
we who survived were taught to rock
to sleep by the ocean’s juba
danced, touched other warm dark flesh

our bodies are instruments
everything, every body we touch is a drum

whispering in clicks and taps to bare shoulders,
wide or boney hips, the bottom
of hard feet, the back of a nappy heads
eyes closed, we tried to reach, to touch
a body  in the right way    to suspend      time
we pressed our fingers to the small of a back
furied our faces in some body’s neck
to chase away demons, bad dreams, hard truths.

our bodies are instruments
everything, every body we touch is a drum

when we fall into a rhythm and move slow
and together, at the right pace,  we can soften iron
biting into our own flesh, we can become
the scabs over each other’s open wounds,
we can forgive and forget, we can heal each
other’s trans  gressions, ill  tempers, dis  eases

The first slow song, the first slow dance
in America was out of love was about resistance

so dance you beautiful muthafuckas, dance slow,
get lost in the music, ’til we   be strong   again

Ultra Sheen

I don’t want to just read you a poem
I want to scratch your scalp.

I want these words to split something
in you like a secular Moses searching
for that sweet spot made holy
when I raise this fine tooth comb.

I don’t want to just read you a poem
I want the tips of these verbs to sink deep
into your tangled locks, whispering
some ancient but familiar language
first spoken in Timbuktu or on Vulcan
by priests parsing out every syllable.

I want your eyes to roll around in your head,
your spine to tingle, and your toes to curl.

I don’t want to just read. I want to talk
in tongues. I want to scratch your scalp
like our mamas did
when we were young enough
to believe every word they said.

I want you to squeeze your eyes shut
and say, no pray, umph umph ummph!
right there, Lawwwwd yes  right…there

Astral Projection

you carry on conversations
in your sleep, wake up,
sweating and searching

you roll over on your back
arms akimbo, legs splayed
head scarf across the room
pillows on the floor
or locked between your knees

when you wake up, smiling
already soaked and aching
mad at whatever forces
snatched you from your dreams

when you close your eyes
and try to resurrect
details and only get flashes

remember that my people
have been traveling
the stars for centuries

so what makes you think
i couldn't find a throbbing
quasar in your solar system

that i couldn’t catch you
every night, every time
you closed your eyes and leapt 

Frank X Walker

Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker is a full Professor in the department of English and the African American and Africana Studies Program at the University of Kentucky. The founding editor of Pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture is a Cave Canem Fellow, co-founder of the Affrilachian Poets, and the author of six collections of poetry including Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers, winner of the 2014 NAACP Image Award for best poetry collection. He is the originator of the word “Affrilachia”, and is dedicated to deconstructing and forging a new definition of a pluralistic Appalachia.