The Voice of God

          Poem for Aretha Franklin
when she opens her mouth
our world swells like dawn on the pond
when the sun licks the water & the jay garbles,
the whole quiet thing coming into tune,
the gnats, frogs, the dandelion pollen, the
pebbles & leaves & the whole world of us
sitting at the throat of the jay
dancing in the throat of the jay
all of us on the lip of the jay
singing doowop, doowop, do.

from People Close To You


She asks if she can sit on the bench & it is that kind of day in Santa Monica, slow & gentle so that when she sits, properly, like a teacher or the pudgy mother of a girl named Marilyn, in unison you raise your round faces. The wind hefts the voices of your deadlings. They are serious & sorrowful women, full of warnings, but today seem content to let you be, saying only, Child, be thankful, open your chest, that great cavern, to our other sister. & so you watch the sea.

Who knows what the woman beside you hears: there are so many languages in the world & your tongue is tied to this one. So you sip iced tea & lean a bit forward into them, your gone women, your sages, who seem to be stroking your head. You begin to imagine the ocean floor as a cup, the pouty lips of God, the soft foam, the salt as if food, tasting sweet & clear.

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Nina Simone, Celia Cruz, Billie Holiday, and Bessie
were all sistas growin’ up,
keepin’ her company through only-child-blues.
Afternoons spent laughin’, cryin’, dancin’ motown gold,
harmonizin’ are-’n-be teen sweet melodies.

Aretha Franklin, La Lupe, Diana and the Supremes
stayed up nights at heartbreak hotel,
rappin’ real close moonshine doo-waps,
patiently riffin’ their lines till she learned all the words.
Takin’ it higher,
hittin’ all the notes home.

Ronnie Scepter and Gladys Knight hung out too.
The first time ever she heard Roberta Flack,
knew they were fruit from the same feelin’ tree.
How they loved her madly, without even tryin’.
Didn’t have to be nobody. Didn’t need to prove.
They never got tired, or complained about the volume,
or even cared who was listenin’.
Always by her side, no matter what.
Tight for days.
Gettin’ it on. Gettin’ down.

Sistas all the way.