A Lesson in Poetry Women and Jazz Men

I wrote this in 2011 as the post-mortem to my first real relationship. It was an incredible love until it wasn’t. I believe that your work must stand as a testament to your truth and that your truth is allowed to change as you process and grow. Some of you are familiar with a previous version. A few years ago at the Motif studios, I read that to Tumi Molekane (God MC and giver of excellent writing advice – thank you, T.) and he told me that he doesn’t believe me. In time, I realised what he meant and that I didn’t really believe myself either. The poem once had a cheerful ending because there was a point in my writing when I was obsessed with survival as a happiness of some kind; a sunny disposition. I obviously also knew that the person that the poem is about would come across it and so, it was my last stand, my final say; my “Best Thing I Never Had” moment. Except it wasn’t. I had to do myself justice by saying out loud the parts that I had never wanted to be confronted with before and honour how they have shaped me, even if it meant that he would know that I was not entirely unbothered. I think when you understand the anatomy of your mistakes, you’re less likely to be forced to keep making them in an attempt to eventually learn the lesson. Since then, I have made plenty more mistakes that feel like him. I’m always working on it. The honesty is for my sake even if it doesn’t save me. The truth isn’t always pretty but it is mine.

*

The night I laid eyes on you

is the night I laid eyes on Jazz

Hymn, a redeeming sound

Stood proud like Sophiatown at high noon

Your presence spoke in tongues to my skin

As if Coltrane had chanted A Love Supreme/Allah Supreme

For a vision such as you

A man of music, moving

*

You, my favourite Miles Davis ballad,

Soothing

How piquant heaviness of Gucci teased me

Closer to conversation

How inside wanted out

I only pretended to be interested in your words

So I could breathe you in

And land on your mouth

And I did

Until I knew nights soaked in kisses and drenched in Jazz

By first name

And steadily they do rise in love,

These poetry women and their Jazz men

*
Lover

Your body became a Bebop of endless Summer

Your tongue would travel down

The burning brown

Brass instrument of my body

Finger tips, felt me

Strong grip, held me

Kisses overflowed like water

Filled me

Before this I had spent an entire lifetime being thirsty

Loved me up! ‘til I felt

Melodies and constellations burst in my belly

Proved that heaven

Does not only exist in theory

This is how we loved

And I prayed at the temple of your body

*

But someone should have warned me

Someone should caution these poetry women

Against these Jazz men

How all we ever do is welcome them in

We find the late nights

Whisky-breath and great sex

Too enticing

*
Tell me:

How will you ever know which song to sing

When the man you love becomes

The needle in the metronome

A piercing refusal that keeps its own time

He’s a pendulum

An absence that controls you like clockwork

Uncertain

You will wonder which prettier, more lady-like version

Of you has now laid claim to him

*

He will whisper lullabies to your sensibilities

While every memory you thought he’d left for dead

Will resurrect as red, lacy underwear & love letters

Their ghosts will populate your bed
But, what do you expect a Jazz man to do?
You’re a small instrument packed tight with all the Blues

He stuffed inside you

Tears snatch the breath from your very lungs

While he remains air enough to hum

New hymns into the tongues of other hers

Everything about him will slip through your praying fingers

After they play you

They will pack up every note, rip the chords of your love clean

And then leave you

For the very, next interlude

It hurts when you’re no longer shiny, brazen & new

It hurts when you’re unwanted for being broken

By the very man who destroyed you

That is the truth, poetry women, about these Jazz men

*
Yes, your love rose at the beginning of Spring

But soon everything must come to an end

It will be worst kind of Fall

The void he leaves

Will taste like Autumn

Sound like May

Look like leaves clutching their broken hearts

In a death leap for a man who will not stay

Some things just aren’t meant to survive the seasons

Some Jazz tunes will make your blood run cold

Echo a savage Winter in your bones

Heart beating too red raw a bloody war

To ever be repeated

© Lebohang Masango 

Author: Nova

I'm an Anthropology postgrad or baby master anthropologist, poet and writer. Occasional badass too. Patricia Smith says: "Say a prayer and start slinging" - I do.

1 thought on “A Lesson in Poetry Women and Jazz Men”

  1. Some time ago I bought a copy of 12+1 and realised I’d watched you recite the poem so many times on YouTube that I was able to echo you when I read it out loud. I’ve always been drawn to that poem not only because that’s how I was introduced to your work but because It came at a time when I needed to put words to what I was feeling and going through. you saved me with that poem sis. And as if the previous version wasn’t gospel enough, understanding your reasons for reworking it makes me want to clap hands and catch some fire because yes and wow! I got out of a tough situation not too long ago and when it felt like a second drawning I put on a bad-and-boujee-bitch-is-unbothered mask and wow what a lie. I didn’t want to accept that once again I’d caught an L and I most certainly didn’t want to perform sadness again. Anyway, I did catch an L and I am sad for now and I don’t know for how much longer but i’ll get out of this that’s what I’m sure of. I don’t know how you manage to read me like this but thank you💜

    Like

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