Our love is here to stay

March 2011 WLT 
March 2011 WLT

Clouds gather under a blue moon,

like trouble brewing as strange fruit

continues to swing – keeping time –

while Columbia turntables refuse to spin

the song; is vinyl too black, too flash to be

sleeved in white prisons? The answer lies

 

like white gardenia petals on a bruise

too subtle to separate from wind; like

a trumpet caught in the ill wind of a jet’s

prejudice in the company of clouds – a

rumble in a jungle of noise, the forgotten b-

side that holds its breath. Trouble brewing.

 

There’s nothing random about rain;

It clears the sky’s throat for the sun’s shrill

voice; the white hanky is for black sweat.

 

They’ll all laugh when I say it, whisper

as though I’m making whoopee with Communist

ideals. They’ll laugh like they laughed

when Louis appeared coal-sketched on screen,

years before he lifted the smoke and called

Eisenhower a spade, said let’s call the whole

 

Soviet thing off, as sweetly as he sang that song

with Ella –– and there’s silence where the applause

should be; because it’s OK when the needle hits

the dark flesh of wax and causes blue screams,

but when the tip hits the dark flesh of a woman

and she wails for justice; shooting off ideas

 

as she reloads stimulants, suddenly music is

treble trouble. And everybody knows

that the calm comes before the clouds . . .

 

There’s nothing random about rain; so blow

Louis, blow from cheek to cheek, blow

under a blanket of blue until you get a kick

from a laughing Ella and switch the tone

so swift   //              so hot      //              so dark

that the only bright thing will be the spotlight

 

of struggle illuminating a girl in Baltimore,

learning as time goes by that life isn’t a fine

romance, love, but your soul won’t desert you;

like the note can’t leave the music, like

the shadows can’t leave the darkness.

The secret is to listen; to the slow creeping

 

embrace of the trumpet’s protest, the percussive

defiance of the piano’s syncopation, the indrawn

Nii Ayikwei Parkes is a Ghanaian novelist, editor, sociocultural commentator, and poet. Winner of multiple international awards including Ghana’s acrag award and France’s Prix Laure Bataillon, Parkes is the author of Tail of the Blue Bird(novel) and The Makings of You (poetry). In 2014 he was selected as one of Africa’s thirty-nine most promising authors of the new generation.


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