(1957 / Savannah, Georgia, United States)

Once Was a Singer for God (Remembering Nekia)

Once you were a singer for God-
yes, you, who within your mother's womb
dodged the hooks and poison sent
to eclipse your light before it shined;
who, abandoned in a field of serpents
clapped hands to the hissing of fanged omens.

Born in a year of misbegotten moons,
Louie the good mad angel found you too late.
Already blackened by the high noon sun,
already diseased by rejection,
one hand reaching for the world you'd left,
one grabbing for a stranger's lonely tit.

On the island of Daufuskie you mistook
the smell of dead crabs for that of roses.
How you stuffed your mouth with the psalms
steamed and served by a grandmother's tears-
ignoring the whip that broke your back,
and the ridicule that gutted your heart.

An outrageous instinct to love and be loved
blinded your arms to lines of propriety-
Women and Men, Christians and Jews,
Muslims and Buddhists, white, black, red, brown.
An outrageous instinct to love and be loved
executed your brain every hour on the hour.

No one knew how you transformed
scars on your back into scented songs
pleasing to a church's nostrils. Or how
the imprisonment of your son
and the murder of your daughter
coated your tongue with heaven's favor.

Brother was that you screaming like a wheel
burning inside a wheel, watching the stars
of your fate reconfigure a chosen destiny
into crimson midnights of tragedy?
Was that your mind running naked through the West
while your soul warbled haikus in the East?

Once you were a singer for God-
who baritoned superbly life's incongruities
until 72 years old you sat on concrete steps
humming, "what the world needs now"- Is what?

The gun in your mouth was nothing like a song,
your exploded skull one jacked up finale.

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