Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Listening at the Door by Patricia Smith

Listening at the Door 
Beneath the door, I could practically see
the wretched slither of tobacco and English Leather.
Hiding on the other side, I heard Mama giggle
through clenched teeth, which meant potential
husband sitting spitshined on our corduroy couch.
The needle hit that first groove and I wondered
why my mama had chosen the blues,
wrong, Friday-angled, when it was hope
she needed. I pressed my ear against the door,
heard dual damp panting, the Murphy bed squeal,
the occasional directive,
the sexless clink of jelly jar glasses.

What drove me to listen on those nights
when my mother let that fragrant man in,
banished me to the back of the apartment,
pretended she could shine above hurting?
I’d rest my ear against the cool wood all night
as she flipped through the 45s—
looking for Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder,
somebody blind this time,
somebody crawling on his knees toward love.

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