17 April, 2020: Melodious Thunk
Read a Poem
by Michelle R. Smith
In the voice of Nellie Monk
I learned the city's songs with my spine, my hips.
The crush of bodies in the subway, an endless line of dance partners.
We moved to the low rumble of trains burrowing beneath the concrete.
We jumped at the angry horn blasts of gypsy cabs.
We sang along to the metrical chants of street vendors,
We spun in the shrill wail of police sirens.
We laughed – tickled by a freedom blessed as Florida water.
Back home, a black man’s life could be flipped as fatefully as Peter Demens’s penny; a white man could murder you and serve a minute in jail; he could pay a fine of less than $500.
Back home, I sniffed at beaches I could never step on.
I trudged through mud thick with the blood of Seminoles that refused to leave their lands for flat old Oklahoma.
In New York, I kicked up my heels.
I learned beauty from the gaseous blaze of it, burning up the night sky.
When Mama wanted me home, I watched the city from my window.
I caught basketball games on the blacktop courts—the fistfights, my ghetto ballets.
Black and brown boys contorting themselves into manhood—
I sneaked out to watch, batted my eyes and blushed at their grunts.
You found me in this maze of dark, artful bodies.
You introduced yourself, and I marveled at your name.
I knew you were a musician right off—
Your pulse riffed off mine when you touched me.
Your fingers played over my skin,
Loosing secret F notes from between my thighs.
You struck unnamed chords in my mind—
Melody in unison with your heartbeat.
You made jazz of us right there—something never played before.
“Melodious Thunk” by Michelle R. Smith, from Guide to Kulchur Journal #2. Guide to Kulchur Press. 2014. Used by permission of the author.
Michelle R. Smith is a black femme feminist, poet, educator, blogger, media activist, and admitted Netflix addict. She is the author of the poetry collection Ariel in Black, has a second collection coming out on Stubborn Mule Press in 2020, and is completing a third collection tentatively titled The Real Jazz Wives of 20th Century America. Michelle has most recently presented her work at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Mac's Backs Bookstore, Poetry+ at Art on Madison, Telos: A Reading of Purpose at Outlandish Press, and The Persisters at B-Side Liquor Lounge.
Write a Poem
Take a moment to make a descriptive list of very distinctive smells. Now, shape the list into a poem of two-line stanzas with at least five stanzas. If possible, use rhyme or slant rhyme for each pair of lines.