Hotter Than July

by daria smith giraud

Vinyl record playing over and over and over

My beaded bob clang like percussive clear quartz crystals
against the humming of taxi horns
air lifting my body on small brick fences
Leaping from curbed sidewalks into the air

I loved New York in the summer
Times of music, drums in the park,
rays pizza, papaya dogs and orange julius
Nighttime of no rules ‘til I drifted off to sleep
Under rehearsals and the living who’s lives seemed like magic
Against the still falsetto of suburban fences

My aunt and uncles bronx apartment
Always smelled of hard wood floors
dried eucalyptus and patchouli
perfumed dreadlocks and hippie Afro crowns.
Aunt Tiye’s famous fried chicken wings
And burnt toast no one but auntie dared to eat

“What’s wrong with black?” She’d sneer in disgust
our indoctrinated teachings . “Grace Jones is beautiful”
But then, I contemplated her prophecy,
the black girl magic yet to come
in hashtags on Twitter.

Hotter than July was as hot as it was that July
Record-breaking under the heat.
a glimpse from the fire escape
black girls double-dutch dancing
a southern girl up north, wasn’t so good at…
I pealed the plastic off the record
like a candy cane on Christmas eve

Playing the vinyl over and over and over again without a scratch
Studying Stevie and the artwork, reading the sleeve
Learning the cadence and hold of long count notes
I don’t remember if I was alone that day in those hours
I was completely on his every word, his poetry in lyrics
The way he improvised like scats on jazz I cried in the tones

I had no baptist church to mimic
raised to sing uncomplicated sterile hymns
so I learned from vinyl and R&B radio
my aunties myriad of records all books of the learned
Hunter and Columbia university from the panther sit-ins
Joni Mitchell’s “Paved Paradise” From long haired hippy days

Her long winding skelter-helter stories were campfires
Teaching me a storytellers device
she was a goddess planting seeds of art and appreciation
hips bouncing to freedom of women with no bras fists to the sun
and my uncle’s laid-back ease and acceptance in love, subtle
mantras of what love looked like on the other side of chaos

after her rehearsal we’d catch a show
a movie in a dirty 80s broadway theatre
a live show at the museum of natural history
My first african dance show
An ensemble of african bodies
Strolling through a crowd of the uninitiated

dogon drums clicking open a memory
Of navigating stars in the dark of the unafraid
And her rehearsals under the moon
copper colored men with long braided hair
their guns, strong arms muscled with the release
of injustice and sacred sailing through
the frequencies of slain goat skin

I loved summers in New York
On the island where everything
Is always electric
the sweet sweat of summer
hotter than July

Category: Featured, Poetry, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU Student