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Rhythm Travel

Amiri Baraka

“Rhythm Travel” (1995) was published in Amiri Baraka’s short story collection, Tales of the Out & the Gone (Brooklyn: Akashic Books, 2007), republished here with kind permission of Akashic Books.

Tyler Hayden (@daggerpoems), Dagger poe
Tyler Hayden (@daggerpoems), Dagger poem #42 (SLUDGE), 2020, black ink on white paper
Rhythm Travel
Your boy always do that. You knock, somebody say come in. You open the door, look around, call out, nobody there. You think!
        But then at once, music comes on. If you watching, there’s a bluish shaking that flickers—maybe “Misterioso” will surround you. The music is wavering like light. The room seems to shift, to step.
        Then you recognize what you hear, man. “Aw, brother, you at it again. You in here, ain’t you?”
        A laugh. This dude.
        “Yeh, I’m in here. You hear me. You feel me. Here I am.” He appears, laughing and pointing at you. “Hey, man. I’m still developing this.”
        “What you call it?”
        “Anyscape. The 1st one. Molecular Anyscape. The Resoulocator—that was the improvement. T-Dis-Appear. Nicknames. Perfect Nigger. American Citizen. Ellisonic. Migration. I got a name for each step.”
        “And now?” I rolled my eyes as he got completely out next to me, dissing the Dis report on Appearance.
        “This is the next to last. I can disappear. Dis visibility, be unseen. But now I can be around anyway, perceived, felt, heard. I can be the music! Yeh. But now I got something even heavier.”
        This dude is out—it ain’t no jive. He had actually done those things. And he never swore me to secrecy either. He just fixed it so I couldn’t remember nothing, except when I came back.
        “Further out? The cloth refiner?” He said he needed to make the cloth fade more so he could get in and out of the bank w/o any hysteria. It took a few hundred thousand to get where he was technically.
        “How come they don’t detect the money splitting?”
        “Well, I ain’t been able to stabilize the cloth thing. Sometimes people see the money floating off. But I still get away.”
        “How come they don’t say nothin’?”
        “Well, it’s hard to explain, I guess. Floating money. They studying it.”
        “A few weeks more, I’ll rob all the mammy-jammas clean!”
        “Wow!” I thought of a stream of exclamations, but I could only analyze it while hearing it. I needed to reflect, but your boy wouldn’t allow it.
        “But now, B., dig this! I pushed the Anyscape into Rhythm Spectroscopic Transformation. And then I got it tuned to combine the Anywhereness and the Reappearance as music!”
        “What? Brother, you know this is some deep technical stuff.”
        “Aw, no it ain’t. It’s science. I can teach people how to make and use these. ”
        “Now I added Rhythm Travel! You can disappear & reappear wherever and whenever that music played.”
        “So if you become “Black, Brown & Beige,” you can reappear anywhere and anytime that plays.”
        “Go anywhere?”
        “Yeh, like if I go into ‘Take this Hammer,’ I can appear wherever that is, was, and will be sung.”
        “Yeh, but be that song and you be on a plantation.”
        “I know.” He was grinning. “I went to one.” He was staring me down, winking without his eye. “I seen some brothers and sisters digging a well. They were singing this and I begin to echo. A big hollow echo, a sorta blue shattering echo. The Bloods got to smilin because it made them feel good, and that’s the way they heard it anyway. But the overseers and plantation masters winced at that. They’d turn their heads sharply back and forth, looking behind them and at the slaves. Man, the stuff I seen!”
        “You mean you been Rhythm Traveling already?”
        “Yeh, I turned into some Sun Ra and hung out inside gravity. You probably heard of the Scatting Comet. Babs was into that.”
        “Really? Man, so—”
        “I know. Why? What I’m gonna do with it? Yeh, but I’m just explaining now. I got a lotta tests.”
        “I guess so.”
        “But I want you to try it.”
        “Hey …”
        “Hey, brother. Ain’t no danger. Just don’t pick a corny tune.”

“Rhythm Travel” (1995) was published in Amiri Baraka’s short story collection, Tales of the Out & the Gone (Brooklyn: Akashic Books, 2007), republished here with kind permission of Akashic Books.

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