Arts & Culture / The Reading Room / Vol. 2 No. 1-2

Still Life with Rick James Braids, Red Dream Book and Velvet Jesus

Derek Fordjour, Alpha Physical Culture Club of Harlem

Image Credit: Derek Fordjour, Alpha Physical Culture Club of Harlem, 2018, Acrylic, charcoal, oil pastel and foil on newspaper mounted on canvas, 64 x 52 inches, Courtesy of the artist

I’m a leaning tower of 8-track tapes,
Dust-sparkled in the living room sun,
Gleaming against burnt coffee table
Ash before an altar of plastic slipcovers,
A 72-inch of James Brown singles—Say it
Loud, I’m black and I’m proud—Baby-
Baby-baby baby-bay-beh screams crackling
Static into the air, ricocheting off
             Crystal bead curtains dangling like
             Rick James braids in the doorway, a
             Runner rolled out like a dog’s tongue
             To protect the brand spanking new
             Carpet my aunt’s number hitting
             In Brooklyn paid for, her red Dream
             Book underlined and circled with
             Black eyeliner and blue Bic pen.
No one has any use for the coasters
Or album covers used by tattooed
Uncles for sifting weed and coke
And hanging on walls like Black
Velvet Jesus poker game art above
The dull shine of linoleum worn
Down and scuffed by Pumas and Pro-
Keds and Salsa pumps’ hustle twirls.

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