Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A. Van Jordan

DC Comic heroes and physicists collide in A. Van Jordan's amazing Quantum Lyrics. The Atom, Hawkman, and Green Lantern appear—as do Feynman, Einstein, and Schrodinger. Thematically, though, the work is much deeper and richer than this. Jordan writes about race, family, film. He's as hard to pin down as (forgive me) an electron. But the poems fall together beautifully, no matter how multifaceted the individual pieces.

Here's a sample:

R & B

Listen long enough to the radio, and you'll think
maybe C. Delores Tucker was right.
While the hip world is falling
in love with rappers with marquee-quality prison records,

I'm falling deeper under the spell of singers
who can still play piano. I never needed my female
vocalists to look good in a thong to feel their voices
in my bones; I never needed the male crooners to carry

guns to know they'd kill for love.
I said this the other night, driving
through Akron a week after my father's funeral,
trying to find a station without gansta rap

or smooth jazz. For years, I watched
my father die, and when the day came,
my father had already predicted
the Chicago White Sox would win

it all this year. And on TV
in his hospice care room,
as he took his last breath, Jermaine Dye hit
the first home run of the series...

The narrator of this poem eventually finds himself at an Arby's, where he settles an argument about the music playing in the store. He confirms that, yes, it is Ron Isley singing, not Al Green. And he takes comfort in the fact that the two teenagers having the argument have heard of either of them.

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