Aretha on MTV

The big chords came rolling out of church,
blew the church away, blew the sky
through the roof, a big blue vault
holy with resonance.  That chain – ten,
twelve songs, God coming out and saying Jesus!
People saying, so this is grace.  So there is.

And then – pssshhhhhhh – Times changed.  The voice,
all right, but the air out – like a computer trick.
We looked at our empty hands, dumb gesture;
looked at the sky: dumb sky.  Uninspired.

Even God went back home; must have.
Sixteen years
of fear of flying bad advice poor material half-
hearted disco.  Okay, then: Like us all
(then) she had her moment.  I mean, memory –
well, we were kids then.  Nobody’s writing
great stuff for any of us anymore.

And now this: MTV. M-T – but wait!
That is Aretha, rocking
big as a house, a house with pigtails
and polkadot pedal pushers, a house rocking
(“What you want – “); I know, even the polka
dots are produced, laid down later, I know
that’s how it is these days, there is no way
out of the BMW we live in, silver BMWs
fall from our mouths when we speak,
clatter to the floor, slide through
all five gears and glide away, So what
(“What you need – “): MTV
is just the medium, there’s Aretha
vaulting out the silver tube, the years,
there’s our hands, solid,
the material, admittedly,
not what it once was, but enough
to raise the chords, enough to roll the sky,
enough to say (Baby) I got it

Published in Southern Poetry Review Spring 1990 Vol XXX No 1 (another time, another place)

Author’s note: Chagrined now to realize I had lost faith during Aretha’s disco years, clearly my mistake. As Kevin Costner’s character says in Bull Durham, “I believe that Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul.”

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