Poetry by Malcolm Friend

Ode To Prince, or The Day Prince Dies I’m Reminded I Don’t Call Home Enough



I’m 12 years-old
and Mom puts Purple Rain
on repeat as we clean the house,
something to get us dancing
and dodging the dust as it rises
from carpet and counters
take these old objects and make them new
and Mom gives commentary
to just about every track on the CD:
how she and Dad used to dance
to “I Would Die 4 U,”
the disappointment of him not getting
the Prince tickets he promised her;
the genius in “When Doves Cry”
and how she sees her own parents in it,
when my grandfather brought his new girlfriend
to my aunt’s funeral and introduced her
to my grandmother, said Number 1,
I’d like you to meet Number 2.


She stops cleaning when “Purple Rain” starts,
tells me and my siblings to listen
past the lyrics, past the guitar solo—
as soon as the piano drips in her body relaxes
she says doesn’t it sound like rain falling
or maybe tears tracing the outlines of your cheeks?
and the strings don’t they sound like crying?
and I think this is what it sounds like
when tears hit the synthesizer,
become part of the circuitry until the weeping
blows the wires out and leaves its sweet echo.
I wait for Mom to say more but she just leaves it at that,
gets up and keeps sweeping as the CD re-cycles.




the day Prince dies my little sister texts me and my siblings I hope Mom is okay and I jerk forward in my chair I know she’s talking about Prince but all I can think is how often Dad says I need to call home more Mom worries about me and isn’t she like any Black woman who’s sent her son into the world pulls her bones out her throat and prays the world won’t pound them into dust and all I remember the last October how I missed Mom’s birthday and when I called to apologize she said don’t worry asked if I was okay and damn if I didn’t feel her swallowing back my skeleton joint by joint and the day Prince dies I play “Purple Rain” on repeat as I try to get to sleep and damn if all I can think isn’t Mom and damn if the piano doesn’t feel like tears salting my cheeks and damn if the track doesn’t weep and I don’t almost call home


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