Look down, little baby.
there she sleeps in that modest, open casket,
inhaling all her graces and hallelujahs
in her serene passage to the good Lord.
a heaven stirrer.
the virtuous, the excellent was in her name,
know her name was soul.
ARETHA, we called her.
Here she is,
not frail of limbs or disavowed of good health anymore
but an universal chanteuse now, invoking a thousand voices of body and soul.
tell her in spirit to sleep well and relieve one last blessing,
and make you the first supplicant to spread the word,
of the glory of the kingdom that she sang blissfully about.
Her daddy preached,
pearls of wisdom forming a bridge to enfranchisement,
stirring the first twelve notes in her
and a papillon rose.
How glorious her own share in this world then,
to be raised as a hierophant
and unite diverse hearts of a thousand secular congregations.
Blessed be the baby,
for you kissed her forehead and touched her feet
and in this last mass,
call her queen, call her grandma, call her the singer of mortals and anoint her in the order of love and reverence.
What life is bigger than the soul then,
what can death defeat in her?
Hair, face, limbs and adornments all subsumed and consumed by the voice that I made my own,
and passed it down to your mother
and now it rests with you.
The virtuous and excellent one.
ARETHA, daughter of the most high.
She smiles at you and her vocal cords chime in yours.
Author’s Note: This is a tribute in free verse to the great Aretha Franklin who has influenced the poet like no other. Her name had Arabic origins meaning virtuous, excellent and her father, a famous pastor named C. L Franklin, was her idol. She grew up in the invincible environs of the church and rose from the heights of gospel singing to meld the Lord’s way with secular musical temperaments, eventually being hailed as The Queen of Soul. This poem is imagined as a sort of brief remembrance by one of her backup singers who has seen life and times with Aretha and intends to pass it down to her little grandchild.