Tuesday, June 17th, 2008...8:10 pm

gary brower | mahalia

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MAHALIA

(For Mahalia Jackson, 1911-1972)

Her voice wells up in the history of her skin
like acupuncture from inside out,
dramatizes in the theatre of her face,
spirals to the top of her hair piled up like a tower,
extends from fingertips of her outstretched hands,
builds a palace of sound like the biblical temple
of a prophet from the Land of Emotional Goshen
whose secret name is known by whoever hears her sing,
reverberates with the shaking gospel of her body
when she lets her voice escape like Hebrew slaves of Pharoah,
a wall of water on either side, hurrying along the almost dry seabed
till she brings the power of voice back to her throat
crashing down on the King’s pursuing army,
exerting control over notes like falling rain
tied to an invisible string of vocal chord,
notes yo-yoing back up into the song,
on a journey through the wetness of music
for those who need to drown in righteousness,
as well as those who simply feel
the kiss on the heart.

1 Comment

  • Gary Bower gets to the viscerality of Mahalia when he writes “the shaking gospel of her body.” This poem is a celebration of the image of her voice.

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