James Brown, Santa Claus, and the Realities of Black Life
Poet, playwright and professor Cornelius Eady’s poem “Neighborhood Kids Play James Brown’s Xmas LP on Their Front Porch, Dec. 24, 2006” is featured in the Winter 2015 volume of literary journal Tin House. It’s a thematically expansive work, paying tribute to James Brown (“… he sounded like the riot of our pigment,”) sketching in hard-knock truths about race and class, and layering warm details of a black neighborhood, all in the framework of a holiday poem.
Mr. Hard Work is working.
I have to leave for last minute shopping
So I never get to hear if the loud cassette
these kids blare on their porch across the street from
my mother-in-law’s house
Has my sister’s and my favorite James Brown song,
“Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto.”
It’s the day before he dies.
Those hot lungs, now screaming through
Since he sounded like a key
turning over a new Buick,
Since the bottom was tough
as the bricks on my daddy’s
And the horns
high-heeled the air
like a hardheaded
The full poem can be found here.