“Seven People Dancing” by Denzel Scott

Denzel Scott


Saturday night
we were out
and the drinks
were flowing
and the men
were soft caramel,
spoonfuls of wet cinnamon,
black and creamed coffee,
all swirling sweetly
on the dance floor.

This was church
for the kids,
this club,
this house of lust,
pride, friendship,
and freedom,
where the rainbow
of sepia tones
merged and
the bodies
mingled in
every combination
that the soul
longed for—

two women
one as pretty
as a doll baby,
the other as handsome
as a young preacher
come to town
to spread
the gospel

two men,
jagged, rough-edged
obsidian knights,
kissing so tenderly
like horses
nuzzling each other
in an open field

one man,
one woman,
dancing with
gyrating hips
and tight
clenched fingers,
floating on the
ecstasy of their
reveling companions,

and then there
was the lone dancer,
surrounded on all sides
by these fellow children
of midnight
and the Lord,
full of their own spirit,
wanting someone
to ask them to dance,
but, needing no one
to do so,

’cause the music
was theirs,
’cause these folks
in this club
was theirs
just as they
to each other
’cause sometimes
one worships together,
and sometimes
one worships alone,

loving the God
that gave feet
to dance,
to duck walk
and death
drop, to
two step,
if preferred,
and mouths
to guzzle
liquor down
and talk shit,
laugh, and
kiki for the chorus
as we damn
well pleased,

and pleased
we were,
’cause we
our journeys,
our hands
out to saints and
sinners alike,
out to victims and victimizers,
out to the courageous
and the cowardly,
with these words
like fire blasting
from our lips—

leave the world
outside and be loved,
be beloved,
be yourself here,
be someone else here,
but be here,
alive, beautiful,
and strong,
sacred darkness
is fading,
and only God knows
what may come
by the dawn
and the opening
of this cathedral.

from Rattle #66, Winter 2019


Denzel Scott: “I write because I am the dual host of a deeply creative mind and a history of traumas as a black queer man in America. I wrote this poem three years ago, urged to create something as a response to the Pulse Night Club shooting. Around that same time, the New Yorker printed a previously unpublished Langston Hughes short story called ‘Seven People Dancing’ from which I took the title. To me, it felt like this tragic event and this short story by a closeted, queer black male writer spoke across time about the intimate spaces that queer people are allowed to occupy.” (web)

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