She dazzled the Black and Tan.
She met Rose, or Rose met her.
Her poise was a girl’s, her voice
cradled the room between her arms.
No one could find an empty chair.
All bickering stopped, bullshit died.
He sought her voice with his wet reed,
with fingers too fast or too slow
seeking the key to her sound, and found it.
The Black and Tan thrived.
White boy with Cadillac, Jim,
aka Huerfano, dropped by with Marge.
What’s that scar on your face?
Bobby asked, smoking Old Golds only
but feeling high and knew it was her.
Paula thought they were attractive,
an older couple. For her, being old
was a mark of incipient wisdom.
Yet she smelled exploitation
the moment a door opened,
and said so: I’m no prude,
but I do know this much . . .
saying little, preferring to sing
because she knew now she could.
Bobby kept his clarinet well oiled.
Rose was her champion. Paula came
on Bobby’s arm. Rose sang.
Rose asked if she would sing.
Paula demurred: I’d like to listen.
So would I, Rose said..
Paula sang. Easy Rider.
There were feathers in the room
knocking aficionados over,
drifting behind the bar,
Only Bobby saw
Henrietta dressed in peacock quills
with plumage like some Paris gown
make her way down those stairs,
step up on the stage,
pause to assess the room,
take the microphone, tenderly
releasing all that lay on her mind,
building to her hurt cry
muffled by her woman’s earned rage.
(1, 15 June 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander