Monday, February 28, 2011

Juke Joint

She didn’t have no business being there,
all the men looked her over, women gawked
and chattered, the place was too small for her.
She was far too beautiful for her age,
men told her, she’d never been touched down there,
the moon full, river water roaring by
the juke joint on the edge of town full up
with laughter, bodies dancing filled with drink..
One man after the other hustled her,
she let them go on, what more could she say
than politely she was pleased to meet them,
why yes, she’d loved to dance, if she knew how,
she was here with her mama over there,
and when he followed her pointing finger
he’d look stricken, look back at her, and go
away. His place filled by one just as old
and drunk, trying to put his hands on her
until she told him who her mother was . . .
The music made her dance, not with her feet
but all over, shivering with joy.
There was this man picking guitar, singing
a blues the room stood still to listen to,
his eyes lidded, his fingers sliding down
the strings and back up again fret by fret,
his words floating out through a haze of smoke
touching the ceiling before it settled
with the whiskey smell, the sweating bodies
mixing some kind of brew her mama knew
how to do until it could change men’s souls
from dust to clay, just like the Bible said.

Did you read the Bible? Juan asked. Adore
said, Sure, everyone did, even Mama,
who thought it had a lot of poetry
but she didn’t believe a word of it,
she had her own religion, her mama’s.
I went to church. I would stand in the back
where I could see what all the people did,
all at once except for the gangling kids
who didn’t know no better, how could you
if your mama never let you go out
of the house by yourself and had no
way to come to terms with what the truth was
once they learned why the truth was a matter
they ought to deal with on their own, make up
their own minds what they might do and not do
to keep living with yourself from the first
so your mama could be proud of her girl
and the other mamas in her circle
agreed. Then they went back to their ju-ju
saying the words, drawing the lines, singing
what she would always know as a chorus
of creatures in the dark making low sounds
grunting, snuffling, scratching, moaning, crying
but not sad like the women who replied
could be, wringing their hands down on the floor
scissoring the light with their naked legs,
dresses pulled up around their waists, rolling
their bodies touching then pulling apart
as she watched, as she walked to the doorway
where on the other side she could see him

or her, what was it? It had no face. No,
she would never see it, just feel it there
inside her, and out here, the women so
far off they would never know what she knew,
how simple it was to go to get where
the animals were, and seeking her too,
climbing her, entering her, in her skin
where it seemed to disappear into flesh,
the creature did, it roiled her inside out,
then she knew it was all the way inside
and would never leave her unless it did
and then because she had loved it to death,
she liked to think, in her little girl’s words,
it was just like the Bible at the end
where that man John had his revelation.

Next time she went to that juke joint, she fucked
with her first man. He let her smoke with him
and shared his bottle of moonshine with her.
He made her feel good. She loved his slow way,
his slow moves, must have been like the serpent
in that tree that day that white girl found him
and took the apple he offered and sin
got hold of her and she let that Adam
have a bite of her, just enough to get
sent packing out of the garden to stay
forever and ever and that was all
the same as him making her feel so good
she wanted more but he said he was tired,
had to go home and see his family
so she went in and found her a young one . . .

(28 February 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


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