Beyond Chatanooga

by Jonathan Moody

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.