Black Velvet Woman
There are places in the town of Bristol, New Hampshire, where you
cannot sing certain karaoke songs. Alannah Myles wrote a timeless hit
and God forbid you forget it. By “God forbid” I mean whatever
benevolence flows from Canada southward, between Cherry Garcias and
lake effect snow and small batch plum kombucha, this benevolent entity
forbids the singing if certain persons are present. Alannah Myles is also
Canadian, though her song was not a homeland hit. She was born in
1958, the same year as my mother. The Black Velvet Women are of
varied age and ethos. What they share is a bristling indignation should
you dare to sing that song. They have directed hatred in my direction and
I have deserved said hatred. There’s something to be said for liking
somebody more because they hate you. Everyone should try it. It’ll bring
you to your knees.
I’ve eaten all the cookies. I’m sad that you are dying. Like ballet, cruelty
betters the vertebrae. Like Basquiat, this letter I write in shit-town scrawl
is holy. I still don’t get why people hate parties. And I don’t buy these
planetary hand jobs for pain. I’d rather a sloppy slap in the face than a
cold palm feigning affection for the void. My mother used to be skinny,
buoyant, hungry for trees and a straight-A sky. They literally called her
“Tigger.” My dad was Christopher Robin. Maybe this poem is a cop out,
like every crumb of sorrow I spit. But if ever you should disappear, my
best skirt will miss you. The ice will thaw though my boots will stay on.
Eileen G’Sell is a poet and culture critic with regular contributions to Los Angeles Review of Books, Hyperallergic, DIAGRAM, the Boston Review, and other outlets. Her first full-length volume of poetry, Life After Rugby, was published in 2018, and in 2019 she was nominated for the national Rabkin Foundation award in arts journalism. She teaches at Washington University in St. Louis and for the Prison Education Project at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center.