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The Body's River
A poem for Sunday

I was born for betrayal—
When my mother left me in the orphanage,

I invented love with strangers.
And if it wasn't there, I made it be there,

until the crash, the revelation.
They say blues is three chords and the truth—

And poetry is long-lined lies and a deep dive
into the body's costly river.

The Atlantic   Published February 2023

for Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Dear Sister Rosetta,
it's 50 years too late, but I love your high-
heeled guitar playing, the way they said you railed
your white Les Paul Custom like a tommy gun:
gospel-wild and showing the men how it's done-
double cutaway fins, your dress breathing red flowers
hugging your full-size body, and
I don't want to be redeemed, but I
have become glorious in the halls of tricked-
out love from the glint of your enormous necklace,
hearing your soul-heavy voice surge/
flowers blur as your chest swells with
song, I'm blown away by my own bullets of trouble.
Sister, I'm saying what you always knew-
that real is real,
that in the nightclub wailing and the strap-on
guitars, there's no happy ending,
just the blues shouters, scorching,

Southern Indiana Review   Published Spring 2023

All work copyright © Jan Beatty 2024