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.