I think of Whitney Houston in her sequined glamour
She’s centerstage It’s 1988 Her head
Thrown back against a black backdrop She is the only thing
glowing So distant from us in the universe
of her voice She is already dying when
I hear her sing the first time When I slip inside
my rhinestone leotard white tights Before a mic
My vocal chords are still elastic Vibrating harpstring
Not yet sclerotic with unlovely smoke and shame
I’m drawn to Whitney like a cardinal on a branch
in winter Beauty too bright for camouflage Her story
a constellation twinned with mine. I love myself
because of her. Our sweet lip sweat sparkling in the flame
light. I went home inside myself too. The world became so small.
Secrets collapsing my life into a vacuum. To burn a little longer—
Whitney, you know no one is coming—you must save yourself.
Copyright © 2023 by Joy Priest. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 10, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.