NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 71

HOMAGE TO BESSIE SMITH There had to be a moment among her moments when the gospel became the blues when she went to sleep in the country and woke up in Chicago, when her daddy’s down south spiritual swamped into her orphan’s lament that night or not long after the song became a moaning scream begging for a mercy that had nothing to do with getting baptized Bessie was a live oak of a woman, the roots of her voice so deep you though she could hold the levee through any stormthe verse came across like chocolate kisses and built refrains with enough gravel to fill three quarries — stare at the weight on that scale and I dare you to find anything to say except where is Saint Louis anyway… heavy load heavy load 69 BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE ain’t this life a heavy load BRN-SPRING-2015.indb 69 3/29/15 11:41 AM