The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday

Asking for a Heart Attack
By Patricia Smith

Aretha. Deep buter dipt, burnt pot liquor, twisted sugar cane,
Vaselined knock knees clacking extraordinary gospel.
hustling toward the promised land in 4/4 time, Aretha.
Greased and glowing awash in limelight, satisfied moan
'neath the spotlight, turning ample ass toward midnight,
she the it's-all-good goddess of warm cornbread
and bumped buttermilk, know jesus by his first name.
carried his gospel low and democratic in rollicking brownships,
sang His drooping corpse down from that ragged wooden T,
dressed Him up in something shiny, conked that Holy head of hair,
then Aretha rustled up bus fare and took the deity downtown.
They coaxed the DJ and slid electric untill the lights slammed on,
she taught Him dirty nicknames for His father's handiwork.
She was young then, thin and aching, her heartbox shut tight.
So Jesus blessed her, He opened her throat and taught her
to wail that way she do, she do wail that way don't she
do that wail the way she do wail that way, don't she?
Now every time 'retha unreel that screech, sang Delta
cut through hurting to glimpse been-done-wrong bone,
a born-again brother called the Holy Ghost creeps through that.
and that, for all you still lookin', is religion.

Dare you question her several shoulders, the soft stairsteps
of flesh leading to her shaking chins, the steel bones
of a corseted frock eating into bubbling sides,
zipper track etched into skin,
all those faint scars,
those lovesore battle wounds?
Ain't your mama never told you
how black women collect the world,
build other bodies onto their own?
No earthly man knows the solution to our hips,
asses urgent as sirens,
titties familiar as everybody's mama
crisscrossed with pulled roads of blood.
Ask us why we pray with our dancin' shoes on, why we
grow fat away from everyone and toward each other.


We had planned to go to Baltimore on Sunday to see an exhibit at the Geppi Museum. Then a couple of days ago, apaulled discovered that the Orioles were selling upper-deck seats for $1 to many of their games in September. So we asked my parents if they wanted to come, packed up sandwiches and went to the Rangers game at Camden Yards. I always root for the Orioles no matter what, but this time my parents were rooting for them as well since the Rangers have a shot at a wild card spot and it wasn't going to hurt Boston any if Baltimore won. And it was a terrific game: 7-0 Orioles, with a guy they just brought up from the minors getting two hits, two runs and two RBIs and several solid doubles bringing down their LOB average. The stadium wasn't at all crowded and once the sun moved past our seats, which happened before the game started, not too warm.

Here are my kids with the statue of Babe Ruth by the back entrance to the stadium.

And hereare my kids and parents on Eutaw Street on the way to the escalators to the upper levels.

The Oriole psyches up the crowd before the game. (There was a large, drunken group of Ravens fans in the section next to us, so we had plenty of cheering nearby, even if some of it made no sense -- "Move those chains!")

The stadium is reflected in apaulled's glasses.

The Orioles are at the bottom of their division, but they hit well today.

Brass plaques embedded in the sidewalk of Eutaw Street mark where home run balls have landed.

The ever-popular Crab Shuffle (replayed in slow motion for Yankees fans when New York is in town) often gets the crowd as engaged as the game.

Here's the family after the seventh inning stretch -- after lunch, peanuts, and ice cream.

We left in the eighth inning to go to the Geppi Museum, where we first visited the Carl Barks Retrospective, which apaulled really wanted to see. Barks created Scrooge McDuck and illustrated most of Donald Duck and his nephews' adventures, many of which involve pirates and outdoor adventuring. We also went to Yellow Bricks & Emerald Cities, a Wizard of Oz celebration -- they had many of the books and illustrations, plus the Dorothy Barbie that I own -- and we walked through the rest of the museum, which I had visited last May. Then we drove back near home and my parents took us to a diner where I had Eggs Benedict with lox instead of Canadian bacon, a truly brilliant idea.

Have a wonderful Labor Day!

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