Her hands, ink fast fingers, sweep-curl of words
are graceful beats and flow and thumping glide, a slide
guitar wrapped around syllables
wood-block foot tapping
lips wrapping a breathless harp, notes
leaping out a five story window and
catching on a blues woman’s voice,
heartbeat of Chicago, of the Delta, places I will never
know, skin I have never been in
but for moments with her words–
Bessie, Aretha, Etta, the folk
I can’t call folk in my whiteness.
A thing is unleashed from her–
barking city summer dog, light whisper
around brick and steel sunsets ,
clacking trains whistling on night tracks. We two
are other, our pasts,
mine of manicured lawns, tended bushes,
cul de sacs and blond bobs.
My small sex voice mewls next to her
soul and flow. My child body did not sway
with the stop and start of the EL.
I didn’t climb flights to a flat.
No one spat “cracker” at me,
no one had to call it the “c” word
because names weren’t thunder-hurled
in antiseptic suburban arias
but softly spun behind paneled walls.
I, too, was a girl with napkins and dresses, but you–
Patricia Smith– your pen presses deeper than mine,
becomes a wail and soul tone, an offer to somewhere
I never was. You take me
in, your perfect broken lines
no apology for cadence
no patience for explanation
no slowing to ask for understanding.
You say I am free to stay or leave,
that your notes are here
tattooing their beat colored ink, floating,
no bars to hold them in.
Marissa McNamara teaches English at a two year college in Atlanta,Georgia. When she was working on her bachelor’s degree, a professor told her that she was not a good writer, and she stopped writing for 15 years. Then she decided that he was wrong and began writing again. Marissa enjoys traveling, reading, her two crazy dogs, and her yard art, including one concrete chicken and a flock of pink plastic flamingos. Her work has appeared in several publications including RATTLE, StorySouth, and Future Cycle. She has work forthcoming in The Cortland Review.