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