Ode on a Maverick Son


thomas sayers ellis

the voice

the cadence

the chant and beat



the bard of D.C. streets

raps us up and down

these pillars a-cross

the gabled tower ceiling


he raps us rapt

stompin the floor

and whap-tappin

the microphone








for more than a grinnin

hour or less than it takes

to walk those crystal stairs


he mocks the talk, rocks

the cock-jivin po-em-men

entertainers crowin Dick

Gregory for Flip


Wilson or Nipsy

Russell big Bill

the Cos and Little

Richard Pryor


smilin white

teeth agleam burnin

his ventriloquist stream

the chorus preacher


of dreams deterred

recurred and referred as strange

fruit Huey’s slurred panthers

echoin fros and horn rims


thump, a-thump, thump

pick it up, CUT IT DOWN

thump, a-thump, thump

PICK IT UP, dig the sound


thump, da-bump, thump

MOVE IT OVER all around

thump, da-bump, thump

TURN IT OVER, burn it down


bippity, bippity-bap


keep rappin that milk bowl

bread happity, clap-slap


Malcolm X SHOT dead

smart and sober, just

like that, another SHOT

another SHOUT in the dark


hate is black and white

red-green as Christmas

Oh, children, it’s just a SHOUT

away, just a SHOT away


SHOT away, SHOUT away, away

away, forty-five years back

Charlie Watts felt the beat

as black is black


and blue stoned shelters

on the streets still scream

brother Baldwin’s fiery

news from mountaintops


roll on, Thomas thunder

give us your go-go

ed-ja-cation, N-intimidation

those master-con tribal-ib-ulations


some fate or gate or bait-

your-nation idea

of Gandhi Christ Buddha

Holy Moley Allah Moses



go forth and propagate

illustrate conjugate

articulate Mother-me


lover of too much fun

bop stomp, stompin puns

this rattlin ivory hall stutters

high hats and chopper guns


chained between chandeliers

his tongue is one gone down

done and dirty son of a

native song singin along to


Albert, B.B., Freddie

M.L. King dreams his pulpit

table snare of conga drums

like Baraka rollin beyond


Le Roi’s blood-brother Ali

never throwin in the towel

just burnin down the house

all butterflies no bumblin clay bees


for Thomas Sayers Ellis


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