Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rhythm and Blues

I’ve always been awed (no, at first, I was a little afraid) by the capacity of blues music to contain a complex of intense affects in such a way that the listener is worried and then rendered better able to bear the difficulties of being alive and aware. The music reminds me that any effective insight into (or, sight in) human experience registers finally at the level of emotion. You’ve got to feel it way down to the depths of your soul.

Here’s a wonderful poem by the poet Jericho Brown (whom I had the honor of teaching in a summer poetry workshop some years ago), from his first book, Please:

Track 1: Lush Life

The woman with the microphone sings to hurt you,
To see you shake your head. The mic may as well
Be a leather belt. You drive to the center of town
To be whipped by a woman’s voice. You can’t tell
The difference between a leather belt and a lover’s
Tongue. A lover’s tongue might call you bitch,
A term of endearment where you come from, a kind
Of compliment preceded by the word sing
in certain nightclubs. A lush little tongue
You have: you can yell, Sing bitch, and, I love you,
With a shot of Patron at the end of each phrase
From the same barstool every Saturday night, but you can’t
Remember your father’s leather belt without shaking
Your head. That’s what satisfies her, the woman
With the microphone. She does not mean to entertain
You, and neither do I. Speak to me in a lover’s tongue—
Call me your bitch, and I’ll sing the whole night long.


John K said...

It's a powerful poem, one of the best in the book, and it also ties together a series of tropes that arise again and again throughout the volume: beauty, violence and pain, music as vehicle and balm, suffering and passion, the spirit, the lived experience and its aestheticized representation in and as the poem. I'm also glad you're blogging more. I always love to read what you have to say.

Mari said...

Thanks for this, Forrest. I've been reading quite a lot about Jericho on the Internet lately, but have not had the pleasure of reading his poems.

Hope you are well...