Friday, March 09, 2012


Jimmy Ellis of The Trammps has passed away -- I got a request from someone too young to own a copy of my first book for the poem that borrowed its title from The Trammps' 70s hit DISCO INFERNO -- so here's the poem, which I always imagined being read in Ellis's voice.



Good Hair favored and was favored by his father
In a time when being fair was being favored
He hadn't asked for either being born had left him
Marked along his outside in visible sign
The contributions of both his fathers' worlds and his mother's
Cloak of many colors coated him sealing off
The impertinenece of tragedians but not of his brothers
Who considered it a sin everybody loved Good Hair
But not his brothers who could not fit his fortune
To theirs wondered why he played at Indian chief
African king Mexican cowboy everything
But what he was since what he was
Was why he was so
Favored in spite of all he hadn't asked
For yet he played the part accepted the ashen gift
And handed nothing round to them
Three times a seventh son he grew and as he grew
More freely longed to lord it over till taking
Good Hair in hand his brothers pulled his prideful thing out
From the house into the field and drawing him across a preaching stone
Hacked it off


Good Hair steamed relaxed to winter's waving iron
Enjoying the way he feathered into his lover's ear
Curled to pistil in her ear
Grinding in red cellars to Do-Wop-Do-Wop
While Mama and her white lights were out
And stiff-knee slow-drag held sway Good Hair burned
Dripping the lye into his lady's mouth she twisted
And chewed and spat it out as bills and babies
All repeating Good Hair's heady infusion
Become a raggedy act
Conked upon his cooking brain and ran him out
Of slap creased satin and stingy brim and white silk socks
Good Hair's confections were out of stock and himself
Unshelved the promise breached and fugitive
Good Hair was lambent upon the city's cracking skull
An unfurrowed mule straining at the bottled bit
Curls falling beneath the rain's polluted do-rag
Dripping into rolled up high water slacks
Couldn't drown the man who carried in his cups
Four roses and a fifth for balm
Good Hair was revolting


Good Hair thinning and out of style had no use
For invented picks after all he's had his
Natural for ten years inadvertently
Forked over in the absence of anointing oil
Relaxer swallowed straight for want of straining bread
Good Hair was cornered surviving squeeze
Immunized against prevailing trends biding his time
Till youth approached
Militant and disarming they cut a swath
Combed through the folk for salvageable soul
Reefer falling into the intersection anxious
To sell a day's labor or lacking that
Beggary securing change his self-effacement repelled
Spare he wheeled unsure spilling out
Upon his own passing impervious kind spoke Good Hair
"Dirty Britches! You can't speak? You ain't worth the wiping
Anyway. I've killed at least one white man more than you
Even if it was only me. You ain't doing nothing for me to learn.
I am the blues! Come see about me!"


Good Hair in his element at last
Briefly waves his third finger and goes back to drowning
No one cares dancing as his discs slip back beneath the surface
His one beat samba goes better beneath
They come they look they leave him there
His relentless improvisation dragging him down
Under the staid sands of the quickening motive
No one dares be about Good Hair
But all take up his floating mane
Lining their heads with his hoary wares
Brotherly homage to the self-diminished mind
Looks nowhere for cause or corollary
Prances to unchanging count
Minces the meat of history
The long playing revolutions wear the needle down
The jockey changes but the rhythm remains
Sterile gargling Good Hair whirling round
In whitening esophageal death of his own kind
Kindly trampling this last evacuee whose
Head is all that holds them up the floor skin waxes rolls into the
Exit light dancing away with Good Hair's dancing yeah

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