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To Love Somebody

By Jada Renée Allen

There’s a light, a certain
     kind of light that has never
shone on me—

     Nina’s version. 
Not the Bee Gees
     or even Janis Joplin,

but the way Nina
     sings it, almost a plea.
Not the studio
     version either. No, her
performance in Antibes.
     Her earrings

dangling their own mute
     musics, her silk headwrap
an aureole of sorts.
     The sheen of her face
a thesis in Black glamor
     sui generis.

I want to be glamorous
     in the way she was
glamorous. The way
     women I knew growing 
up were glamorous: campy,
     yes, but regal.

If I knew of Nina then
    I would have drawn
her. Drawing being
     how I coped
with the expurgated chorus
     of my girlchildhood.

I drew women then
     because I could not be
one. Nina knew
     a life of could-nots
too. Little girl blue rejected
     from music school.

Aye, I knew the blues; still do.
     My godmother Pat whupped
my ass when she caught
     a glimpse of me at her vanity
tracing my mouth with her
     carmine matte lipstick

blues. I’m still afraid to touch
     my face with shade #309 blues.
The same hue of blues
     that would make someone want
to cry, I’m a woman. . .Can’t you see
     what I am? I live & I breathe

for you! But Nina?
     Oh Nina—
the way she sings it.
     I imagine myself singing
the same way to the deferred girl
     at the vanity, assuring her:

Baby, you don’t know
     what it’s like to love somebody,
to love somebody—I ain’t finished—

     to love somebody,
oh, to love somebody,
     to love somebody

the way that I love you.




Listen as Jada Renée Allen reads To Love Somebody.

Added: Wednesday, April 24, 2024  /  Used with permission.
Jada Renée Allen
Photo by K Anderson.

JADA RENÉE ALLEN is a writer, educator, and two-headed Black girl from Chicago, Illinois. She has received fellowships, scholarships, and support from Tin House, Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, Community of Writers, and VONA, among others. A 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest winner, her work either appears or is forthcoming in the Academy of American Poets’ “Poem-a-Day”; Colorado Review; Gulf Coast; Hayden’s Ferry Review; Paris Review Daily; Virginia Quarterly Review; and elsewhere. She is the Founder & Executive Director of The Frances Thompson Writers Studio for Black Trans Study, & Editor-in-Chief of Bodemé Journal.

Image Description: In a greyscale portrait, Jada Renée Allen, a deep darkskin Black woman with locs, sits with her left arm resting on the armrest and stares deeply into the camera with a slight smirk. She has a nose ring and wears a black dress with tassel jewelry around her neck.

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