Mary J. Blige sings “No One Will Do, No One But You”

Patricia Spears Jones

James Brown’s waxed face graces the New York Post
Carnival starts in Harlem two months early

All of Soul Nation steps to the curb and kicks it
SAY IT LOUD

Oh Verily, his brilliantine hair, tight pants, and tiny dancing feet laid out
BEAUTIFULLY—the sullen city unsignified — tears and dancing
Like church, girl, like church

Yes, this Ambassador of Soul has returned his credentials, no regrets
“Godfather” — a misnomer. He was here to represent SOUL NATION
And like Cuba, Soul Nation has no embassy.

But folk visit Soul Nation daily crossing the border to that Shining party on
 the hill
where folk are eating fried chicken, drinking 7&7, and smoking Kool 
 cigarettes
While disco balls swerve and curve the smoky air like plump women having
a really, really good time.

This behavior continues to shock citizens of SOUL LESS NATION
Busy as they are with their markets, markers, and ministers without 
 portfolio

They see only the smiling countenances of miserable men and women
Oh so folkloric in fake fur floor length coats, rhinestones and hot pants.

SOUL NATION gives up poly rhythms and an occasional orgasmic shriek
GET UP OFFA THAT THANG and make yourself feel better
GET UP OFFA THAT THANG and change the shape of weather

Because some times what you’re ON ain’t NO GOOD, NO WAY
YOU REALLY REALLY GOTTA GET OFFA THAT THANG

De Man, De Woman, Dis Soul less Nation with the odd
White Man in Charge — on a ranch, a barge, fishing — whatever

Violent death follows.

Best to join the Ambassador of Soul, who brought
us the ache and art of Black America, claiming
Patriarchy of funk and feeling just about as good as you can get

When you walk a walk so defiant, every one just samples your will
And this year, Mary J sings about who will do and who won’t
We of the folkloric know that only the hardest working man will do.

And even in repose, he’s working the room,
lit like a saint and made up
Better than any well-off hooker

Hands and feet hidden beneath tufted satin
So we can’t see the wings.


Originally appeared in the Oxford-American

From Living in the Love Economy
Available from Overpass Books

Also in A Lucent Fire: New & Selected Poems
Available now from White Pine Press
Or via Small Press Distribution

Arkansas born and raised and resident of New York City for more than three decades, Patricia Spears Jones was named by Essence.com as one of its “40 Poets They Love” in 2010. She is author of the poetry collections Painkiller and Femme du Monde from Tia Chucha Press, The Weather That Kills from Coffee House Press, and five chapbooks, including Living in the Love Economy from Overpass Books. Her fourth collection, A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems, is out from White Pine Press (White Pine Press Distinguished Poets series). Her work is widely anthologized.

Living in the Love Economy, Overpass Books 2014 (slipcase chapbook cover)