It's Easter? Cue the strings, pass the Kleenex and fetch my pen.
I'm an insanely musical person, with an astounding memory for songs no one in their right mind should retain. Yep, I've got a clutch on the standards, from Gene Pitney to Wilson Pickett, Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers to Badfinger, "Strange, I Know" to "Muskrat Love." I don't only recognize both Top 40 smashes and dusty obscure little ditties, I sing them from first note to last. The hubs and I often dream about hitting the road on a coast-to-coast tour of backroads juke joints, separating the local citizenry from their wallets by betting that I, a black girl from the west side of Chicago, can croon a flawless "Wichita Lineman."
Never been much for writing to music, though--since music is another attempt at language, it clashes with, and sometimes overwhelms, my words. But every year around Easter, prompted by my weepy annual ritual of watching the 1961 film "King of Kings," I suddenly write a flurry of frighteningly religious stanzas, in which I repent and confess to everything short of electing George Bush for a second term. These purging poetics are inevitably accompanied and electrified by the movie's holy, humongously dramatic theme song (it revs up just after the overture):
OK, so maybe it's just a wildly overwrought, manipulative arrangement of musical notes that reminds me that I haven't gone to church in awhile. But sometimes we all crave it, don't we, something that makes us feel small and swept along, something that puts someone else in charge for a change, some weighted melody that gives us an excuse to cry and inspires sappy poems in which we forgive ourselves and everyone around us.
And we start over. Reminded of how profoundly a moment can move us, we start over.
Patricia Smith has been called “a testament to the power of words to change lives.” She is the author of seven books of poetry, including Incendiary Art (2017); Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (2012), which won the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler (2008), a chronicle...