by John Paul Davis
Don't say glam. Everyone always says that.
Neither say alien nor say stardust.
Invent a brand new vocabulary.
Say moonage. Say sula vie milejo.
Before heavy metal, before eyeliner
for rock gods, before electronica,
there was Bowie, self-named after the knife,
himself the blade, separating spirit
& the body, feminine from female,
mask from masculine. Androgyny and.
All of us & simultaneously
none of us. He went to hard rock's bombast
& distortion to find soul. To Berlin
to find the blues in a synthesizer
orchestra. Called himself the Thin White Duke,
thus freeing himself to write R&B.
He knew what everyone craves most of all
is a mystery. It's why our gods ask
us to carry what we can never hold
up some sacred, burning mountain, why love
comes laced with heartache, why such queer lyrics
keep us awake in the night, wondering.
He understood that to write a hymnal
for the spiritually dispossessed
he must himself become a borderland.
What is the sound a soul makes as it leaks
from its seams? Bowie. How keens the heartcry
of a person born out of place in time?
Bowie. How echoes joy on your second
wedding day, after you'd all but given
up on love? Bowie. Say the hot demon
of the drink or drugs still bucks in your veins,
say you think you can't leave the one who hurts
you, say you're harrowed by an old music
you heard once on an aging stereo
as a child. Say Bowie & he'll appear,
screwed up eyes & screwed down hairdo, well hung
& snow white tan. Saint Satellite, my dim
dreams need your code-switching & baritone,
my hetero tongue, needs your gender
bending & the high holy spark & howl
of your guitar, my weekday commute needs
your compact rebellion & scattershot
crimes of fashion. Let me borrow your mouth
& be beautiful, if not for a life
time then for just today, just one more day.
John Paul Davis's poetry has appeared in Muzzle, Rattle, Four Way Review, The Journal and many others. He lives in New York.