Listening to Nina Simone Sing “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.”

for DT

Under the comfort of       Cincinnati fog,
                        I listen to your        voice:
                        a   twirl      of
cocoa nib     and bergamot;   an      acre
of semisweet         tenor notes        softly
pushing through          dimpled      loam;
an     onshore wind that cuts
through an Atlantic Ocean            wave.

How you         rub chalk maple     over
the head of      a screech    and       even
make a sweet thing of    the acrid.

While you did not draw        the map
that shows                  the sticky trail
of  Tom’s                  lugubriousness,
                           you    fashioned
the compass that leads         to
the creaky side door of that      hostel
in which he stayed during
his Easter                 sojourn in Juarez.

You, Aunty Nina,    are an   ever ready
synonym for Polaris. Meta-raconteuse,
you dive into the marrow
                                     of the marrow
of a story.
                                  Now that is deep.

I think       I understand it now:   Aunty
Nina, you sing each        woman
into a symbol
of some sort of ascension.

There’s Melinda,   the holder of gloom,
who walks up                            the forever
             of a wooden
She waits for           the moment
to bear the obsidian              walls
of her mouth and her       honey-lined
gums to any hungry fool      that treks
behind her.

And then, there’s St. Annie, who    is   1.
the patron saint of   miners      in the
         middle earth who sweatily lament
their subterranean homesick blues,        2.
the protectress of    capsized boats and
storms,                                       and 3.
the    hand resting on the boat
of a woman pushing the head of   a storm
through her own middle earth.

Aunty Nina, aren’t these       all metaphors
for reaching skyward?

And wouldn’t you say that
                                     this is your work?

I slow-scratch the                  record      just
to hear the way you stretch       the word
ghost into 6     syllables.

And now there is a hole   on the speaker’s
mesh that takes   the shape of a hexagonal
set  of                   hips. A spirit        pushes
its way   through the busted geometry    of
the record   player.

You: floating, floating, up to the North Star.

Copyright © 2020 by Yalie Saweda Kamara. This poem appeared in JuxtaProse. Used with permission of the author.