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Listening To Marian Anderson Sing Go Down Moses For The First Time on Vinyl

Hear it yourself on Archive


The vinyl noise floor of a 78

sound of an enflamed red curtain

opening to an audience of ghosts filling the black air

A piano primes the ether

in an imagined drawing room

All these years this song was launched

in bass throat cannons

To hear it aloft, living

through her and winged

Her voice symphonic and vowel elegant

She acts for the ears, somehow

Listen as she sweeps up onto her toes

for the name Moses

Her mouth a begging bowl of blood

The power lines of her voice

nearly snapping

before collapsing on

the fainting couch of the word: Pharaoh

She must engage her entire body—

pulling sound up from the earth’s core

to shower in sparks from her throat

The pianist hurries through their solo

“Get back to the story”, they seem to play

Marian’s voice obliges

The piano ascends and cascades in swelling waves

unable to find or maintain a melody

equal to the vocalist

who attempts, with her voice,

to spin the sun on its axis like a dime

The pianist races up and down the scale

sweating, exasperated

before returning us to the warm hail

of crackling vinyl– a sound like bubbles in a flute of champagne

She must sing with her eyes

I need to see her eyes I must see her eyes

I see them everywhere

#poems #poetry #writing

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