Poet’s Corner: ‘Black Messiah, Played Backwards’

Tomás Miriti Pacheco

Doors swinging open moments before

He walked backwards into the studio,

D'Angelo pored over his project,

14 years of his image twisted in endless mirrors

Snapping back into place

As his vocals resonated

Through the grime of drum and bass

Into a nation of ears that started

With its concluding seconds fresh in mind,

Listening until they had no memory of it, fingers

Hovering over the play button.

As the past shrugged backwards

The judge's gavel cracked, grew bark; his verdict

Choked so far down his throat

It sizzled

Against stomach acid, and a man's cries for help

Were pushed back

Into his mouth by the air moving

Smoothly into his lungs,

As a cop's arm slid from around his neck

As my mother played Voodoo over

The old speakers in the living room,

Shaking and rattling in wooden cages

While I grinned and snapped along to

Playa Playa, swaying in the vague shadow

Of a dance cast by a brilliant display of life.