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Understanding Tina Turner

By Tara Betts

Quiet girl found a voice mama could not quell
inside Nutbush City Limits. The baby
blasted beyond timid Annie Mae into Tina,
grind of muscle, hip, fierce calves
dominating heels into domesticity.

In the early music video era,
I soaked up her battered denim jacket,
leather mini-skirt, spiked wig and stilettos.
I'd throw my head back like her
rippling antennas of brown hair,
belting to no one in particular,
What's Love Got to Do With It?

Twenty years later, people joke
about Ike's fists granting Tina her name,
how she transitioned terror rooted
in spousal rhythm and blues to rock diva,
thunderdome warrior queen
with a mountain mansion overseas.

Hurts twang the womb
then escape into songs-like a man
who never holds you too close, too long,
trying to crush music within.

Added: Monday, June 30, 2014  /  From "Arc & Hue" (Willow Books 2009). Used with permission.
Tara Betts
Photo by Tony Smith.

Tara Betts is the author of Break the Habit (Trio House Press, 2016) and Arc & Hue (Willow Books, 2009).  Her work has appeared in POETRY, American Poetry Review, Essence, NYLON, ESPNW, and numerous anthologies. Tara is also one of the co-editors of The Beiging of America: Personal Narratives About Being Mixed Race in the 21st Century (2Leaf Press, 2017). Tara holds a Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University and a MFA in Creative Writing from New England College. She teaches at University of Illinois-Chicago. She represented Chicago twice at the National Poetry Slam as part of the first two Mental Graffiti slam teams, and has appeared on radio and television, including HBO's Def Poetry Jam. Please, visit her website.

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