Eunice wanted to play.
In a concert hall with the precise
and measured proportions of a cello, she’d sit.
Fine, fine, this Bösendorfer, waiting to serve,
to sing at the mistress’s command.
Instead, Nina sang.
Through nights, cloven hooved,
this toe black, that one white,
’til dawn, driving a baritone up Jacob’s ladder
until it spread across the sky, electric, angelic.
Rage as unkempt as lightning.
White boys’ stares and freshly licked lips
would have to do for refined applause.
Another martini, on the house,
for flowers at her feet.
And through the chaos of her Gemini self, this
A pulsing, gravitic heart of a neutron star.
An angel descends the ladder, bandoliers and Afros,
seeking the doors where the blood
has been carefully scrubbed away.
And this, through the chaos of her reclaimed self.
Standing on the shore, facing west,
tracing a lyric reversal of the course of precious cargo,
and watching a crackle in the sky.
“Like me, like me,” she must have thought.
We are left, then, commissioned to carry,
to run the voodoo down, to watch
where the lightning meets the sea, and imagine
if they had just let Eunice play
how wonderful that would be.
-C. G. Brown