Ma Rainey by Timothy Robbins

Ma Rainey, in this picture your
teeth take the place of song.
The USPS usurped your face
when they gave you a stamp.
29 cents. I hear you moan
“The 29-Cent Blues.” This
stamp is your only haven.
Your flesh is an insult to
Beyoncé’s muscles. Your
tassels are tired mops. Maybe
it would be different if you
swapped your chipped sepia
teeth for the faux pearls on your
bosom. We’d be less offended by
your delicate white mouth
wary of biting. Ma Rainey,
reclaim your other blues.
Not a dance or the dark side of
Detroit. It was your black bottom,
joy sweating joy, jazz in
man and woman, girl and
boy, dancin’ Sammy, Jew baby
and prancin’ goy. My little white
bottom, your disciple and
challenger, salutes you.

 

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