Poetry

September 18, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

Jeanne Menjoulet photo

 

By

Jim Daniels

 

 

 

Aretha In The Age Of Trump

 

 

All I’ve been able to do lately

is listen to Aretha. I was worried

she was going to die on me.

 

And she did. Aretha!

I shout into my basement’s void,

but the furnace does not kick on.

 

Her middle name is Louise.

She doesn’t need a last name.

I have never known another Aretha.

 

I don’t know this one. Except from

Afar. Jeez Louise. These days

I need a lot of blank space

 

so I can listen to Aretha.

Rise on the wave of that voice.

With a symphony or acapella.

 

No matter. All matter.

In days of the Grudge and Mine

it beats endlessly washing your hands.

 

I don’t want to know anything else

about Aretha’s life. Just the voice

swelling soaring smooth. I’m going

 

to forget her middle name.

Crumbling boulders. The bad news

network bought out by the worse

 

news network. Lying taken as

common sense. As the label

on a stool softener.

 

Absence of even a decent disguise.

Domination of the mean spirit

in lieu of turning up the furnace.

 

Aretha. Uh-Ree-Thugh.

Walking Detroit streets

you remember that smell—

 

in December air, smokestacks

and snow? A long time we walked

the same/but not the same streets.

 

I never sang in your Daddy’s church.

I fled my own church in what now seems

like pettiness. Nostalgic for the shelter

 

of any place that values decency.

I was cold in relative proximity

to your cold. Oh, to see your steamy

 

breath rising into joyful notes above

the slushy streets. To hear one note

today, against all the bad news and worse.

 

What is it about Aretha that makes me

want to turn  it up? I mean TURN IT UP.

All of it. Any of it. Against daily out-

 

rage. Slow blues, Surging Soul.

Gospel of Gospel. Jazz

of soaring spirit.

 

Nobody talking about spirit

in the dark or in the light.

Talking points scratching

 

all the old records. Your hat

at Obama’s Inauguration

displayed at the Smithsonian

 

as artifact, relic. A thousand

years ago. The man who made

that hat is from Detroit.

 

Our homes never leave us.

Even when we lose faith.

Even when betrayal erodes

 

the bricks and the necessary

voices remain uncounted.

Aretha’s voice climbs the scales

 

up into floating. Aretha all

the time in the face of

fascism. Salve on the daily

 

wounds to decency, the scars

to come. Forgive me, Louise.

My lingering down here

 

hiding from out there.

My hands warming

at the embrace

 

of Aretha. The only news

I can stand.

 

 

 

 

 

Failure To Write A Non Political Poem

 

For hunting, choose magnum lead shot, or, for best performance, nickel or copper-plated shot. Chilled lead is softer and more susceptible to deformation. For this reason, we limit our use of chilled lead shot to spreader loads and close-range sporting shots…

 

 

I’ve been checking the weather forecast

for places I’d rather be—those big happy

suns on the ten-day forecast. Humor me,

 

I told the person with the knife at my back.

It’s better than at your front, he said.

You’ve got a point there, I said.

 

Should I try backing up on the busy street

or go around the block? Stop honking

your geese and maybe I could think straight

 

as that Vee headed south. Not like the new ones

that stick around, shitting everywhere.

 

Republican geese. See, I hesitate there. Cheap shot.

Plated with whatever you got. Chilled. Thus, sun.

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Daniels

Jim Daniels’ recent poetry books include Rowing Inland and Street Calligraphy, 2017, and The Middle Ages, 2018. He is the author of five collections of fiction, four produced screenplays, and has edited five anthologies, including Challenges to the Dream: The Best of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards, a competition for high school and college students that he founded in 1999. His next collection of short fiction, The Perp Walk, will be published by Michigan State University Press in 2019. 

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