Prologue—And Then She Owns You

By Patricia Smith b. 1955 Patricia Smith
This is not morning. There is a nastiness
slowing your shoes, something you shouldn’t step in.
It’s shattered beads, stomped flowers, vomit—
such stupid beauty,
 
beauty you can stick a manicured finger
into and through, beauty that doesn’t rely
on any sentence the sun chants, it’s whiskey
swelter blown scarlet.
 
Call this something else. Last night it had a name,
a name wedged between an organ’s teeth, a name
pumping a virgin unawares, a curse word.
Wail it, regardless,
 
Weak light, bleakly triumphant, will unveil scabs,
snippets of filth music, cars on collapsed veins.
The whole of gray doubt slithers on solemn skin.
Call her New Orleans.
 
Each day she wavers, not knowing how long she
can stomach the introduction of needles,
the brash, boozed warbling of bums with neon crowns,
necklaces raining.
 
She tries on her voice, which sounds like cigarettes,
pubic sweat, brown spittle lining a sax bell
the broken heel on a drag queen’s scarlet slings.
Your kind of singing.
 
Weirdly in love, you rhumba her edges, drink
fuming concoctions, lick your lukewarm breakfast
directly from her crust. Go on, admit it.
You are addicted
 
to her brick hips, the thick swerve she elicits,
the way she kisses you, her lies wide open.
She prefers alleys, crevices, basement floors.
Hell, let her woo you.
 
This kind of romance dims the worth of soldiers,
bends and breaks the back, sips manna from muscle,
tells you Leave your life. Pack your little suitcase,
flee what is rigid
 
and duly prescribed. Let her touch that raw space
between cock and calm, the place that scripts such jazz.
Let her pen letters addressed to your asking.
You s-s-stutter.
 
New Orleans’s, p-please. Don’t. Blue is the color
stunning your tongue. At least the city pretends
to remember to be listening.
She grins with glint tooth,
 
wiping your mind blind of the wife, the children,
the numb ritual of job and garden plot.
Gently, she leads you out into the darkness
and makes you drink rain.

Patricia Smith, “Prologue—And Then She Owns You” from Blood Dazzler. Copyright © 2008 by Patricia Smith. Reprinted by permission of Coffee House Press. www.coffeehousepress.org

Source: Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press, 2008)

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Poet Patricia Smith b. 1955

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Nature, Weather, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Quatrain, Syllabic

 Patricia  Smith

Biography

Patricia Smith has been called “a testament to the power of words to change lives.” She is the author of five books of poetry, including Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (2012), which won the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler (2008), a chronicle of the human and environmental cost of Hurricane Katrina which was nominated for a National Book Award; and Teahouse of the Almighty, a 2005 National . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Weather, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Quatrain, Syllabic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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