Three Poems

by Jonathan Moody


BEYOND CHATANOOGA


                   I believe there are only two truly regal women
                    in this world, my mother and Bessie Smith.

                                   —The Prince of Wales




You don’t have to open
your mouth to let us know
you’re on stage. But tonight,
in Baltimore, you do, & for
that I’m grateful. Still singing,
you pull me from my seat,
grab me by the hand, &
walk backwards —staring
straight into my eyes.
I follow you, Bessie, the way
a worm follows a blue
goose, or the bed-sheet’s
lilting shadow. We dance
against canvas backdrops
of magnolia & incongruous
moons; our shoes, setting
fire to the ramshackle cabin.








PHAROAH SANDERS


                    Pharoah is a man of large spiritual reservoir.
                    He’s always trying to reach out to truth.

                                   —John Coltrane




The saxophone’s
an ankh shielding
your chest. But there’s
no fusillade of boos.
I’m a valve caught
between cracked
palm & idioms—
the first quarter,
a ball of fire;
second quarter,
pyramids erect;
the third one
is kente cloth woven
across hemispheres;
the fourth, a vase filled
with formaldehyde.
The scale seesaws
bearing the weight
of your intestines.
Your shrieks,
intersecting with
with a goddess’ guttural
scream. At this
moment, some mother
in Arkansas realizes
her son is just knocked
out & ambles
away from the crib
twisting caps back
on calcium carbonate—
your horn’s vibrato
breaks all ten chains
clinging to your soul.








A POEM ROBERT DAVIS WILL HAVE TO UNDERSTAND


     Great God Almighty the black face   the black
face still face down on the ground   wham   tap   tap
 thump   thump   thump   Not okay for black face 
black face    black face to clown below sea level 
Not okay for black face   black face to clown on land
‘cause that boogie-woogie back talk don’t fly   so the
black face   the black face   the black face frowns
something terrible   & if the black face   the black
face ain’t cheezin’ then the black face gets wham bam
shop-a-loo-bop rocked   sho’nuff   I’ve seen the black
face scraped down to the white-muscle meat  sho’nuff
I’ve seen the black face emptying blood into the gulf
& sho’nuff the black face made eleven o’clock news 
municipal fists going wham   wham   shoeprints all
over the black face thump   thump   thump   shoeprints
all over the body   thump   thump   thump   The black
face a shoe-in for best performance in an amateur
video   the black face never frowns   the black face
be steady cheezin’   the black face put roosters out
of business   the black body be on kitchen counters 
the black body knows its place & don’t go nowhere else
  folk grab the black body   hang it upside down
palms going thump   thump   tap   tap   tap   How much
you wanna bet the black body’s gonna add   uhm uhm uhm
 to stacks of buttermilk pancakes   & hi-di 
hi-di-hidee ho  to scrambled eggs & grits   thump 
thump   tap   tap   tap   Black face steady cheezin’
body in a shitload of paaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnn   
no boogie-woogie back talk neither   such a solid performance  
tonight after a nightmare sho’nuff I frowned    tonight after
a nightmare I caught you on the news   tonight after a
nightmare your black face stripped down to
white-muscle meat   tonight after a nightmare
your blood emptied deposits into the gulf  
tonight after a nightmare the 14th amendment
fell through the hole in my lily pad