Three Poems

After Tracy Chapman​

It was Halloween at a house in college 
and getting late, the smokers were outside, 

fidgeting on wet leaves. Inside, real beer 
drinking was still going on. When “Fast Car” 

came on, everyone stopped yelling and sung, 
had a feeling we could be someone, 

be someone. Most of us couldn’t legally drive 
home. Two years later, two of us 

would be dead. Dropped twenty-four stories 
or stabbed in a bedroom with roommates home. 

To be accurate, neither of those dead people 
were at that party. They didn’t receive 

that sung omen of belonging, longer, 
to this world. When everyone stops 

drinking and sings a slow song at a party 
you have to marvel. No one even danced. 

After that song, the party was over. You can 
die this way, you can die this way, Tracy 

finished, as the sober ones pulled around 
the front of the house, just fast enough.​

​8 Bars of Soul 

I turned twenty in love 
with Sam Cooke. How not to need 

an album where the audience 
chimed in as if trained in a church 

was beyond me. I was nineteen 
and the campus was just beginning 

to freeze. The green turned into needles 
then a sheet. Loving more than one 

song was as simple as a grape 
in the mouth of a child. 

I bought his Best of on Central Avenue 
in Yonkers, tearing into the plastic 

with a ruckus of fingernails. Hearing it 
was like watching a silent film 

of myself having a child 
I hadn’t even gestured toward. 

There was so much I hadn’t considered 
pushing out of myself; the maple 

of a larynx spread across a horn, 
songs instructing gladness 

but never how. Again sex 
was the scent of a voice. 

Songs written for white people, 
the cinnamon smuggled in. 

His manhood was a species 
of tree whose roots were hammered 

in. In each song was the possibility 
of a dance, and often 

repeated. Like Sam Cooke I was born 
by a river. Like he who played 

One Night Stand for me 
on a Sunday afternoon, I will never 

stop counting the treadmarks of love 
by the tracks on his albums. 

He was shot: his heart 
like a broken kiln. Broken 

into. All those ways of serving 
up a melody finished in the dark 

of a motel room. The sound 
of Sam Cooke’s death was like the pounding 

of a woman on the door 
when her man is home 

but drinking. Don’t watch me 
listen to his songs. Watch 

my arteries go thin. 

​The other night I dreamt he came back from the dead 

We all wanted to touch him. His face, 
his collarbone hidden by a shirt too fancy 
for him in life. We told him about the Yankees 
& his sister as he toothpicked a cube of seafood 
he never ate. Water seemed to exhaust him 
and he couldn’t sit still for long, as if he was expected 
in so many places at once that his time in a chair 
was misspent. He gave us strict directions for how 
best to plunk the jam atop the omelet fried with cheese. 
We all vowed we’d try it; we converted our gowns 
& suits into athletic shorts and danced loudly 
in wintered mesh. He departed unescorted and he wasn’t 
almost late; in fact he was quite early. It was too early. 

TAYLOR MARDIS KATZ is a poet, editor, and farmer living in the hills of rural Vermont. She serves as Assistant Editor at Cooper Dillon, a small poetry press out of San Diego, CA, and runs a small herb farm with her partner (Free Verse Farm). Her poems have made an appearance on the radio, in a farmer’s almanac, in a seasonal quarterly focused on whole foods, in handmade chapbooks, and in a handful of literary journals, most recently Muzzle Magazine, Barnstorm, and H_NGM_N. She keeps a scroll online at
The Adirondack Review