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Callaloo 25.2 (2002) 405

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Urban Renewal

Major Jackson

viii. Block Party
[forThe Roots]
Woofers stacked to pillars made a disco of a city-block.
Turn these rhymes down a notch and you can hear
the child in me reverb on that sidewalk where
a microphone mushroomed with a Caliban's cipher.
Those couplets could rock a party from here to Jamaica.
It's code was simple: Prospero's a sucker-emcee.
Smoke rising off a grill threatens to cloud all memory;
my only light, the mountainous cones of streetlamps.
Did not that summer crowd bounce in ceremonial fits?
Ah yes! It was the deejay, and his spinning technics
delicately needled a groove, something from James Brown's
funky president. Then, working the cross-fade
like a light switch, he composed a stream of scratches,
riffs. Song broken down to a dream of song flows
from my pen; the measured freedom coming off this page
was his pillared spell of drums—it kept the peace.
A police car idled indifferently at the other end of the street.
What amount of love can express enough gratitude
for those reformulations, life ruptured then looped back,
def and gaudy like those phat, gold chains?
Keep to sampling language, keep it booming
like Caliban yelling, Somebody! Anybody! Scream!


Major Jackson is author of Leaving Saturn, which won the 2000 Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book of poems. He teaches in the English Department at the University of Vermont.



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