Did you tell people that songs weren’t the same as a warm body, a soft mouth? Did you know how to say no to young men who cried outside your hotel rooms? Did you listen to the songs they wrote, tongues wet with praise for you?
What sweaty bars did you begin in? Did you see them holding bottles by the neck, hair on their arms rising as your notes hovered above their heads? Did you know of the girls who sang into their fists mimicking your brilliance?
Did they know that you were only human?
My parents played your music at their wedding. Called you Makeba, never Miriam, never first name, always singer. Never wife, daughter, mother, never lover, aching.
Did you tell people that songs weren’t the same as a warm body or a soft mouth? Miriam, I’ve heard people using your songs as a prayer, begging god in falsetto. You were a city