‘The Queen of Soul breath gone on an August night
or was it early morning—near dawn
The Queen of Soul whose reign was challenged
By baby divas with scurrying voices—rose up
But they never got near to her throne. She was
Born a citizen of a nation that called brown people
Queens and dukes and earls and counts, but rarely
Citizen. Born citizen of a nation that found tongues
Loosened in the framed temples of justice, love
And recognizable rage. God’s people vilified
God’s people saved in rhythm, rhyme, time
Kept better that the beating back of those who
Could not name the God they worshipped (Mammon)
Or offer succor to anyone not like themselves.
Voice travels across hearts’ doors, which once opened
Could not be closed. Voice travels deep in the hippo campus.
Mocked and degraded, open up and hear these words
THINK RESPECT TROUBLE LOVE RESPECT LOVE
THINK THINKTHINKTHINKTHINKTHINK LOVE
French voices shout in the bright late afternoon—the
Mediterranean sparkles today. It will sparkle tomorrow
But the heavens, oh they will sparkle like never before.
The Queen of Soul. The voice that marked and framed
A generation of citizens American, then global SOUL
In Dakar, Accra, Tunis, Johannesburg. SOUL in Marseille
Manchester, London, Paris, Berlin on the radio
In Cologne, Santiago, Tokyo and Chang Mai.
Her voice trails Memphis, St Louis, Chicago, Detroit
The Migration in chords and harmonies, melodies memorable
Choruses repeated. Trails of tenderness and terror.
Woman on the road. Body loved, betrayed, slapped about
Salved with new kisses. Woman on the road.
Queen of the train tracks, bus routes, plane rides
Car trips. The Great Migration’s circles of motion
Moving in her voice, a legacy. Her star matters
Brightly as Mars so keen to be seen this annum.
Battle weary now resting.