Hearing James Brown at the Cafe des Nattes, Sidi-Bou-Said, Tunisia

Cover for Southern Exposure's Southern Black Utterances Today cover featuring a woodcut print of a Black man's face gazing upward, by Atlanta artist Lucious Hightower

This article originally appeared in Southern Exposure Vol. 3 No. 1, "Southern Black Utterances Today." Find more from that issue here.

Yes, brother your word had come

Don't want nobody

Give me nuthin

Crowning this hilltop, long ago's lighthouse

Open up the do'

Git it myself

Your word comes, thanks to God and Marconi

To this eyrie where I sit

Mint tea before, serenaded by caged birds

And the undulating arias of Arabia,

Her last vestige of empire.


In waves, over the waves it comes

Don't want nobody

Mingling with birdsong and arabesques

Give me nuthin

Floating over an Andulusian mise-en-scene

(I remember Cordova)

Open up the do'

It pierces the blanched housetops, the waiting sea

Git it myself

You moan, Dido plunges into the flames

You groan, Hannibal embarks

You shriek, Cato's vow is fulfilled

You sigh, the sea roars beside a silent shore


Flairing into this moment

Your voice, snatched from beyond Sahara's sands

Crosses the western sea, enters familiarly

This concatenation of Africa's time

Flavoring mint, infusing birdsong, merging into the endless