Some Bright Elegance

For the screwfaced in good shoes that paper 

the walls of dance halls, I have little patience, 

I say dance, not to be seen but free, your feet 

are made for better things. Feel the bitterness 

in you lift as it did for a six-year-old Bojangles, 

tapping a living out of Richmond beer gardens 

to the delight of a crowd that wasn’t lynching 

today but laughing at the quickness of the kid. 


Throw yourself into the thick, emerging pure 

reduced to flesh and bone, nerve and sinew. 

Your folded arms understand music. Imagine 

a packed Savoy Ballroom and slide across 

the dusty floor as your zoot-suited Twenties 

self, the feather in your hat from an ostrich, 

the swagger in your step from the ochre dust 

of a West African village. Dance for the times 


you’ve been stalked by store detectives 

for a lady on a bus, for the look of disgust 

on the face of a boy too young to understand 

why he heats but only that he must. Dance 

for Sammy, dead and penniless, and for the 

thousands still scraping a buck as street-corner 

hoofers who, though they dance for their food, 

move as it is only them and the drums, talking. 

from Kumukanda (Chatto & Windus, 2017), © Kayo Chingonyi 2017, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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