MERRY CLAYTON SINGS US STERILE
I am flying down I-95, flipping stations, staring at the radio
like I’ve got a death wish, when the last minute
of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” comes flailing onto WBLM.
I am sitting on a barstool. A boy in a leather jacket
is telling me to listen for Mick Jagger to moan with pleasure
when Merry Clayton’s voice cracks on the high notes at the end.
The boy is effortless cool. Knows a lot about rock n’ roll.
Tells you who to root for in every song. We listen.
There is a crack. A moan. As promised.
I am flying down I-95. Merry Clayton is screaming far gone memories
of this boy who is leaving. I have to believe she knows
what a storm sounds like; what it is to be fire-swept.
I am leaning against the wall of a handicapped bathroom,
a pregnancy test drying on the floor. There are two minutes on the timer
and the end of my life is a shot away. When the dried bar
tells me just how empty I am, my voice cracks under the weight
of this loneliness. The boy I now know I can’t keep tells me I have
a pretty voice. I tell him I have a hard time with the high notes.
I am flying down I-95, chasing this boy who loves like war; like murder.
I do not know whether he will take The Stones with him
when he goes, only that this can never again be my song.
I am listening to my lover talk about rock and roll. There is no end
to his praise of the voice crack. He does not know how many ways Merry Clayton
broke the night she laid the track. He still does not know about the miscarriage.
The pretty boys who moan when their women break do not know that you can sing
your body empty, that a woman’s fury is caustic and her grief is barren land.
Merry Clayton and I… we must have hit the same high notes.
ENDOMETRIOSIS, CHARISMA, AND A GOOD SINGING VOICE
My mother’s sister meets the devil between jobs.
He snags her ankle in the revolving door and pulls her down.
He asks what she has always wanted (A voice, she whispers);
needed (A husband, she admits); longed for (A baby, she cries).
Satan grins; promises safe delivery. He does not mention
that he is a man of two-thirds promises; does not tell what he plans to take.
Tonight she sings under her breath as a man sets the dinner table.
She would love to concede that she is happy like this,
but every few weeks she calls to remind me
that when she is gone, she will give me all the fine silver.
Ellyn Touchette is a biology student and behavioral health professional from Portland, Maine. She is on the board of directors for Port Veritas, a slam and nonprofit which she has represented at multiple national competitions (NPS 2013 and 2014, WOWPS 2013). Her work is present or forthcoming in The Emerson Review, Black Heart Magazine, The Legendary, and Drunk in a Midnight Choir.