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.
for bell hooks
A warning one white friend hisses
To the one standing nearest to me
At an Upper West Side newsstand.
As if my ears
Could not cradle human speech.
This is the birth of a regret:
My surprise of the woman on my right
As I reach to buy a paper.
Where? becomes an Oh.
How they grin,
I am a close call, how they grin,
Pickpocket my ease,
Grin, then push off down the street.
Now I have the rest of Saturday.
Who will touch my hand,
Who will take my quarters,
These clots of syntax
Growing cold in the blush of my palm?