The Vocalist

Kendra DeColo


(Commencement Ceremony at the Tennessee Prison for Women)


Near the crooning of an electric piano,
the prison's lush dark

a jukebox of confessions
and contraband-dazzlement,

her tongue ignites
an invocation, music blurred

convex between her legs
the way I imagine

she taught herself
to feel good, syllables resuscitating  

in her lungs making each breath
poignant, a rawness

cutting through the gaze
of c.o.s and visitors rising

for a better view. How undone, cold-
blooded would I be

to sing straight
for this crowd, brightness

squeezed from split vowels,
the throat luminous as a flock of strings?

What would be reconciled  
inside the cell of my body

breaking open
to hold god's

featherless shape,  
the phrases wincing

mid-air like an aura
aching with flight?

I know I'm a coward, lusting
for what belongs to no

gender, stripped
and un-sequined

octaves burning
in the throat.