by Ashley M. Jones
Ida Mae, Queen of Joy
-after RaMell Ross
This is no lost son’s funeral.
This is no Sunday jubilee. This
is no cause to wonder
if heaven is a place where freedom really
stretches out flat and yielding on its back.
This is a bit of sun stinging the star in my eye,
the sweat from a hot Alabama afternoon pooling,
dripping. A tear re-entering its tomb.
This is my good wig.
This is a day to wear it and not even clip it down,
because this is a delicate day.
No running from an angry gnarl and siren,
not today. And these pantyhose,
the polyester skin across my righteous knee
will only kneel before Jesus himself,
but he surely wouldn’t ask me that. Not today,
when He rolled out this cloudless sky,
so smooth I would spread it on a Saltine
and take it in my mouth–
the prayer it would make on my tongue.
Everybody knows all of us
whose first names are punctuated by Mae
know Jesus personally–right down to our cuticles.
Right down to the sharpest shadow he casts behind us–
so black, so deep, it shows the Beginning,
before “before.” It is the pause before God made the world.
It is the shine on my Sunday shoes
the holy guarantee of hard candy in my pocketbook.
And it’s joy, and it’s mine,
and it’s hallelujah, mine, mine, mine.