Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mahalia Jackson--How I got over LIVE

How I got Over
Charles Harvey

. . . Getting up at 6 to watch you sing at 7--
You and your white-robed cohorts shimmer
And sway across the gray video screen—

"How I got o-over,
My soul looks back and wonders,
How I got o-over."

The night before, you fooled me to an arena.
Next to watery glass doors, i stood like Lot's wife.
With Rockets's tickets in my hand,
I watched schools of people swim by me.
Through my glazed eyes, I counted heads.
But not one belonged to you.  Not one was your smug mask.
The next day you smiled through bone-white teeth and said,
"Baby, don't you remember?
I said I couldn't make it.
Are you crazy or what?
I would never have stood there all night."
 But i loved you, man and pretended i was forgetful.

Getting up at 6 to watch you sing at 7—
You and your choir weave left and right
Like a forest of red trees under the spell of an easy wind.
Two weeks ago i gave you money
So you could ride to that place,
St. Pious Holy Baptist Church--"Built to the Glory of God!"--
In your new crimson robes, in your ice blue thunderbird.
There you prayed the sinner's prayer:
"Lord Jesus, I am unworthy to walk this earth,
 And I know it. But rain down salvation anyway
On my burning flesh--on my rotting corpse.
No man knew your disease,
But it was I, woman, who saved you from your minor hell.
The repo man was at your thin heels
Ready to hook his hook to the underbelly
Of your shiny metal ego.
You held him off with my lucre.
The next day, you called me an idiot and hung up in my ringing ears.
i    had asked you for a dollar
So i could ride the bus to my gig
Deep in the soft belly of EXXON Company, USA.
i    use a typewriter.  You use me.

"How I got o-over.
My soul looks back and wonders,
 How I got o-over.

My Mother is ill.  Cancer is slowly eating her eggs.
But she said i was sicker than her for fooling with you.
i said, "But Momma, i love his brown eyes."
 She said those wet slanted eyes belong to a fox,
A hen eater, a tail-between-the-legs dog.
i looked down at my feet and saw them chewed and bleeding.
When you called my momma a bloated cow to my face,
i told myself it was because your mother had tried to abort you.
But the coat hanger caught your twin sister instead,
And you had to live in the dark shadows of that woman's disappointment.
That is why you hate me, my momma, all women.

"How I got o-over,
My soul looks back and wonders,
How I got o-over."

Standing before you naked, you laughed at my breasts.
Said they were nothing more than peanuts,
And i was cheap, my ass was too big,
My thighs too long,
i had hair like a dog's, and smelled like one--How
Could i expect you to get it up for somebody as ugly as me?
You spat those words in my face so softly.
And i stood shivering in front of your limp cock—
Shivering in your room walled with blond Playboy centerfolds,
Shivering under your burning gaze--my mind asking me
if i dyed my hair, would that make a difference?

Getting up at 6 to watch you sing at 7,
"How I got o-over,
 My soul looks back and wonders,
How I got o-over

Baby, i bought you that cherry-red suit
And alligator slippers to match, last Christmas.
You gave me a $1.98 box of candy
And a card with a black Santa Claus exposing himself.
  It said, "Merry Xmas. Have a peppermint, Baby."
i just laughed and said, "Oh how clever."
While you ate my momma's turkey breast under her watchful eye.
Her eye that asked me, "Fool, when you gonna wake up?"

i tipped into your unlocked 3rd floor honey-comb,
And smelled love, heard it growling in your bedroom.
There you were in bed with a young boy--Tongue to tongue, pelvis to pelvis.
In the hazed mirror i saw your ass twitching
Like the jaws of a nervous old man.
You said, stroking this baby's soft curls,
That he was so much finer than i.
And then you kissed him on his forehead.

For people weak as water, as I am,
We leave revenge up to God.
They told me as you lay dying from AIDS, scalding sores
Erupted on your ass and chest, like little volcanoes.
You jerked like a monkey full of pepper
And cried for me and God to rub ointment on your wounds,
But I was in God's house, singing.

When I get through singing on Sunday mornings,
I leave Stone Church
And wait for the robe of darkness to cover the sky.
In the graveyard, with evergreens as my witnesses,
I lift my dress and wash your mouth—
Your ugly mouth locked in a death grin--
­I wash it until my bladder collapses dry and dusty as my heart.

"How I got o-over.
My soul looks back and wonders,
How I got o-over."


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