Track 5: Summertime
 
Lion
 
The Burning Bush
 
 
Further Reading
 

Track 5: Summertime

as performed by Janis Joplin

God’s got his eye on me, but I ain’t a sparrow.
I’m more like a lawn mower . . .no, a chainsaw, 
Anything that might mangle each manicured lawn
In Port Arthur, a place I wouldn’t return to
If the mayor offered me every ounce of oil
My daddy cans at the refinery. My voice, I mean,
Ain’t sweet. Nothing nice about it. It won’t fly
Even with Jesus watching. I don’t believe in Jesus.
The Baxter boys climbed a tree just to throw
Persimmons at me. The good and perfect gifts
From above hit like lightning, leave bruises.
So I lied—I believe, but I don’t think God
Likes me. The girls in the locker room slapped
Dirty pads across my face. They called me
Bitch, but I never bit back. I ain’t a dog.
Chainsaw, I say. My voice hacks at you. I bet
I tear my throat. I try so hard to sound jagged.
I get high and say one thing so many times
Like Willie Baker who worked across the street—
I saw some kids whip him with a belt while he
Repeated, Please. School out, summertime
And the living lashed, Mama said I should be
Thankful, that the town’s worse to coloreds
Than they are to me, that I’d grow out of my acne. 
God must love Willie Baker—all that leather and still
A please that sounds like music. See. 
I wouldn’t know a sparrow from a mockingbird. 
The band plays. I just belt out, Please. This tune
Ain’t half the blues. I should be thankful. 
I get high and moan like a lawn mower
So nobody notices I’m such an ugly girl.
I’m such an ugly girl. I try to sing like a man
Boys call, boy. I turn my face to God. I pray. I wish
I could pour oil on everything green in Port Arthur. 

Lion

I wish you tamed. I wish what you fear— 
A night alone in the forest. 

A father who leaves you there. I wish you
Were ten years old again. And in love

With Marvin Gaye. I wish you saw his daddy
Shoot him. I wish you asthma. An attack

In the field. A lump in your chest. A doctor
Who won’t touch it. I wish you’d live forever

Afraid of dying. See the circus and be content.
Animals crawling like infants for the men

Who made them. I wish you would
Sniff a man. I wish his whip

Sharper than fangs. I wish you could know
How bite-less I feel, the mouth

I don’t close, his head in my throat.

The Burning Bush

Lizard’s shade turned torch, what thorns I bore
Nomadic shepherds clipped. Still,
I’ve stood, a soldier listening for the word,
Attack, a prophet praying any ember be spoken
Through me in this desert full of fugitives.
Now, I have a voice. Entered, I am lit. 
Remember me for this sprouting fire,
For the lash of flaming tongues that lick
But do not swallow my leaves, my flimsy
Branches. No ash behind, I burn to bloom. 
I am not consumed. I am not consumed.



See more of Jericho Brown at:
 

Academy of American Poets

New England Review

Poetry Society of America

Post Road

 
 
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