Anthony Walton

The Encyclopedia of Rhythm and Blues

Passion killings plane crashes overdoses
accidental and intended
Suicides bus wrecks women the inability to choose
between one woman and another
heroin, booze the inability to choose
between pleasure
and the Lord men prison the white man
the white man who owns
the record company the melismatic celebration
of disaster the gut-wrenching agony
of joy, the anger and hush of the naked soul alone
sighing and shouting intensely hyperbolic
declarations of erotic heroism – anywhere, baby,
skidding out of control and into the next-
to-the-last chorus and over the bridge and key
change, popping the balloon of a heart inflated
with humiliation and pain and replacing it
with guttural and shrieking glissandos
I once was lost and now am found
as if a singer were an angel commissioned
in the highest holy orders, as if a song had wings
extended into flight and feathers of shelter –
as if true love and its fraternal twin, the blues,
possessed equally the powers of devotion
and redemption, as if the one true heaven
were standing around the corner, laughing
drunk, and locked with lust and abandon
into the everloving arms of the mortal world.

Anthony Walton
The Encyclopedia of Rhythm and Blues first appeared in The New Yorker, May 6, 2002.