Some folks will tell you the blues is a woman, Some type of supernatural creature. My mother would tell you, if she could, About her life with my father, A strange and sometimes cruel gentleman. She would tell you about the choices A young black woman faces. Is falling in with some man A deal with the devil In blue terms, the tongue we use When we don't want nuance To get in the way, When we need to talk straight. My mother chooses my father After choosing a man Who was, as we sing it, Of no account. This man made my father look good, That's how bad it was. He made my father seem like an island In the middle of a stormy sea, He made my father look like a rock. And is the blues the moment you realize You exist in a stacked deck, You look in a mirror at your young face, The face my sister carries, And you know it's the only leverage You've got. Does this create a hurt that whispers How you going to do? Is the blues the moment You shrug your shoulders And agree, a girl without money Is nothing, dust To be pushed around by any old breeze. Compared to this, My father seems, briefly, To be a fire escape. This is the way the blues works Its sorry wonders, Makes trouble look like A feather bed, Makes the wrong man's kisses A healing.
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
What they say they are
And what they actually do
Is what Phillis overhears.
It’s like she isn’t there.
It’s like she’s a ghost, at arm’s length, hearing
The living curse out the dead—
Which, she’s been led to believe
No decent person does in a church.
How they say they love her
And how they look at her
Is what Phillis observes;
Like she’s the hole in the pocket
After the money rolls out.
God loves everybody—even the sinner,
Even a mangy hound can rely
On a scrap of meat, scraped off the plate
What they testify
And what they whisper in earshot
Is as dark as her skin, whistled from opposite sides
Of a mouth.
Is she the bible’s fine print?