“White folks hear the blues come out,
but they don’t know how it got there.” – Ma Rainey
I. Ma Rainey speaks to Elvis
What a strange sound to mimic and call creation.
My rent been making a sound the same color as these keys.
I sang a song that broke my own heart more than once –
mind you, that’s even when I didn’t hit the right notes.
Can’t take that. Hard as you try you can’t.
Can’t thank the grass for rain while a cloud is watching.
II. The Ghost of Elvis Apologizes, Kinda
I’ve only died once / so I wouldn’t
say I was good at it / or anything
but I did make a tune / didn’t I
could sing a song so blue / and black
you would swear / I colored / the chords
I been thinking / about how thrifters
pop / tags and sell something inferior
to the original / for more than it
was worth / and I know my work was not
in vain / I know I’ll live on / there will never
be another me / how could there be
my soul wasn’t even mine
III. The Music Speaks for Itself
The smoke cleared
and left you this;
a shroud that moves,
a kinetic wisdom.
I have been waiting
for the opportunity
to burn red-faced
and neck bent back,
barking at what you
knew to be empty,
waiting for the curtains –
storm clouds breaking
like records –
to be pulled back,
to show you my face.
Junious Ward is a poet living in Charlotte, NC and a fellow of Callaloo, The Watering Hole and Tin House. He is also a 2018 National Poetry Slam Champion who has toured nationally. Junious’ poems have appeared in The Poeming Pigeon and Four Magazine.