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for Otis Redding Today, a bird invisible among the trees cries Jericho Jericho Jericho O no O no all the afternoon long. The lyrics aren’t yours, but I hear them in your voice, feel them lodge like a splinter in that durable cavity, my soul— a word that poets are warned to avoid, yet there it perches, alongside angels and hearts, solid and alert, as true as a thorn. Long ago, when my small white son pranced around the living room in a see-through powder-blue leotard, shooting wind finger at imaginary friends, he told me when he isn’t Weasel Man he’s Otis Redding. Meaning, I think: Weasel Man is fancy me, but Otis Redding is just me. I guess I’d forgotten to tell him about your green satin suits. But I remember the joy-wrench of watching him step inside you. That durable cavity, the soul. I think of it sometimes, at odd times— When the man I love puts his hand between my legs. When a sharp wind lifts off the ocean. I once told the devil I’d sell him my soul if he’d give me Aretha’s voice. He never got back to me. My soul must be too heavy to move, too awkward, the wrong size for his room. All these years later I’m still dragging it uphill, like a black hole, like a magic wallet. All the time I’m waiting, just anticipating the thing I’ll never, never, never possess. But this Jericho bird, invisible among the trees: I don’t know its name or what it looks like. Call it a heart, an angel, a clatter of regret. Call it tenderness. There it is. Singing.
Dawn Potter’s many books include Chestnut Ridge (Deerbrook Editions, 2019).
Copyright 2020 Dawn Potter