Deep Song

Cornelius Eady

These mother-fuckers,
These mother-fuckers
Won’t let me sing.
Billie Holiday
Will not be allowed
To raise her voice
At Lester Young’s funeral.
She won’t be allowed.
She is a scarlet woman.
The mourners, the mourners
Are scandalized.
He was sweet,
And now he’s gone.
He was hers,
And his wife won’t have it.
These mother-fuckers.
These mother-fuckers.
That’s love.
That the understanding
Of how long he’s been gone,
How long he’ll be gone.
It’s deep, down in her cells.
It’s awful, just terrible.
Right in a church
She’s showing it.
Right in a church.
What you going do about it,
That voice
That broken-bottle neck
She wants his sax
Around her voice cords,
She wants his pork-pie
Pulled rough against
Her skin, her body
Is a horn. Let me sing
About love, she thunders,
Let me sing about love
You mother-fuckers.

Cornelius Eady is a poet and playwright and is the author of eight books, including Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems. In 1996 he and writer Toi Derricotte founded the black poets’ organization Cave Canem. Currently he teaches in the M.F.A. program at SUNY Stony Brook Southampton.
Originally published:
July 1, 2019


Rachel Cusk

The novelist on the “feminine non-state of non-being”
Merve Emre


Renaissance Women

A new book celebrates—and sells short—Shakespeare’s sisters
Catherine Nicholson

Fady Joudah

The poet on how the war in Gaza changed his work
Aria Aber

You Might Also Like

Four Days

Cornelius Eady

Ode to my Father’s Boots

On aging
Cornelius Eady


New perspectives, enduring writing. Join a conversation 200 years in the making. Subscribe to our print journal and receive four beautiful issues per year.