Rhythm & Blues --- A Love Poem

Whatever happened to Rhythm and Blues?
Whatever happened to the bump bump scratch of playin hop scotch
on chalk lined sidewalks
with bottle caps and pieces of broken concrete?
Our skirts flyin up each time we jumped revealin ashy knees and pink lace panties
And our mamas callin us fast
‘Cause we shook our little butts like ladies
shake it to the east
shake it to the west
shake it to the very one that you love the best
and did the bump to Car Wash and Cheryl Lynn
--we had to be real

Whatever happened to the blues of watching the lady next door
Throw her man’s clothes out the bedroom window
‘Cause he came home early in the mornin
But way too late?
And did Ike kick Tina’s ass the night before she sang Proud Mary
The song that rolled through my head and blared through her window panes?

Whatever happened to the rhythm of waking up each Saturday mornin

Smelling bacon sizzlin in fryin pans and hearin the whir of vacuums
while Anita crooned through the walls of every other apartment
‘cause we were all caught up in the rapture of bringin joy and needin some of that same ole love, sweet love?
And women who hugged you too hard into their fat breasts like pillows
smellin like cookin grease and Jean Naté
Worked at home after working all week long
And men drank beers and ate Doritos and chicken wings
Talkin loud and sayin nothin
While they watched the fight or the game
And sang it’s a man’s world on the commercial break
And you loved it ‘til they yelled somethin’ bout your big head
when you stepped in front of the tv

And did the crackhead sing

Good morning heartache like billie holiday
And then get high like her
Before he ran naked through the neighborhood
Sendin doors bangin shut and sirens singin down the block?
And was it marvin’s daddy’s gunshots I heard each night
As ghetto birds flew overhead
Loudly flapping their metal wings
shakin windows and shinin spotlights in our backyards, lookin for prey
As we all sang “what’s goin on?”

Whatever happened to the rhythm and blues of real love?
Not naked lust exposed to a canned soundtrack
Or downloaded off the internet
beds bouncing
hearts breaking
Daddy’s beggin
Mama’s prayin
love everlastin
not the kinda love that was about playin games
but the kind that got you from Sunday to Sunday
‘cause you never knew what the week might bring?
Whatever happened to R&B?
Whatever happened to the rhythm and the blues
The grit and the grime
The sun and the shine
The hope and the heartache of a ghetto child
Livin and learnin the rhythm and the blues
life teaches its child to sing?

January 29, 2005