Christopher Bowns CC
Take Another Little Piece of My Heart!
It’s 1975 and I have the requisite frizzy hair
and hand-patched jeans, and thrift store velour jacket
and cracked little teenage heart,
and I’m wailing along to Me and Bobby McGee
along with Janis in my parents’ suburban living room
and we’re singing Somewhere near Salinas, Lord,
I let him slip away, though I have no idea where Salinas is, or what it means to let someone
slip through your fingers
and I never knew you were allowed to scream
the way she does on Take it! Take another little piece
of my heart now baby! so I try that too,
though I lack her Texas twang, also her full-throated sexual
understanding of what it is to be a woman
who has stripped off her very flesh for a man
who will never love her back
like she deserves. When Janis sings
the song comes through her like a tornado,
violent and perfectly formed,
and I am a clumsy kid with a shaky grasp of pitch
and no idea how to move forward
into a womanhood I can't yet see.
A few years later I'll find myself hitchhiking across Canada
with a man-boy nursing a drug problem,
and we'll jostle along with truckers down lonely highways
all across the continent. I’ll escape him
in Vancouver and get a ride down to California
where I live now, while he'll kill himself
in the far corner of a frozen sheep meadow.
By then I’ll have an inkling of the thousand ways
life can break a person. I'll listen to Janis
turn herself inside out, going right to the edge
of losing it, and then landing the note anyway,
her voice raw grit streaked with blood,
and I'll bow my head, I'll understand
that I never understood.
Alison Luterman’s four books of poetry are The Largest Possible Life (Cleveland State University Press); See How We Almost Fly (Pearl Editions); Desire Zoo (Tia Chucha Press), and In the Time of Great Fires (Catamaran Press.) She also writes plays, personal essays, and song lyrics. www.alisonluterman.net
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.