BY IMANI DAVIS
How easily we forget that stars are fires, too.
Someone has burned, and that is what makes them shine.
Instead of fearing the flame, their fans name them
Kodak, or R. Kelly, Eminem, or Chris, or James Brown, and listen
to their hot new narration of the end of a woman’s world.
If we wanted to, I believe we could
trace every explosion back
to a man not being sorry
for what he has done. One day,
someone’s son hardens
into dynamite and an audience gathers
around his bright and deadly light.
What a way to make music.
By building a beat
out of the crack
of a woman’s bones.
In the 80s, my aunties listened to secular music in secret,
snuck off to detonate into a man’s
right answer (or at least a good flavor
of wrong). The lyrics taught them to accept
any cruel guess at
love a man tossed at their feet. Patriarchy
is my family tree turning to cinder
while a man soundtracks the funeral
rites. Record grief on a loop
and I promise it’ll be a hit.
Blood can dry into platinum if you let it, and I am
a dull tooth biting back at men who do not know
they are dangerous. They listen
to the same love songs as
their fathers. Call them
classic. Ignore the blood drying
on the piano keys. In the confessional
of a dim house party, boys forgive
Kodak Black and forgive
Chris Brown and forgive
their friends who do not ask
permission and call this brotherhood.
At a barbeque, I look to my elders
for guidance. But men forgive
R. Kelly and forgive
James Brown and forgive
the uncles who touch babies and call
these the good old days. What is a man
but culprit or bystander. Lit match
or keeper of matchsticks.
On the B side of every 45
is a woman turned to smoke.
Because generations change more often than men do.
My mother serves as proof. She is
a vinyl record waiting for a man to notice
the scratches he’s left.
Maybe this is my inheritance.
The ache of knowing
the men behind
the music would kill us
and watching everyone sing along.
The nerve to call these
love songs. It’s Christmas,
and my mother creaks
the radio to the news
of James Brown’s death. She mourns
but does not sing.