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'This Thing Called Life'

Poetry Inspired by the
Music and Spirit of Prince

Prince Rogers Nelson


Tara Betts

About the Poet

Tara Betts is the author of Break the Habit (Trio House Press, 2016), and Arc & Hue (Willow Books, 2009).

Her chapbooks include: Never Been Lois Lane (Dancing Girl Press, 2016), 7 x 7: kwansabas (Backbone Press, 2015), and THE GREATEST: An Homage to Muhammad Ali (Winged City Press, 2013).

Her writing has appeared in Obsidian, Callaloo, POETRY, and several anthologies, including: Only Wanted One Time to See You Laughing: A Prince Tribute

She co-edited the anthology The Beiging of America: Personal Narratives About Mixed Race in the 21st Century

Betts earned her MFA at New England College and her PhD in English at Binghamton University. She teaches at University of Illinois-Chicago.


Spring 2017 »

His Doves Cry
by Tara Betts

After more than 7 hours and 13 days,
the doves overlook the doorways,
rustle in their cages, coo, and their
keening runs low. High-pitched calls
come more frequently at night now.

Those two doves raise their wings,
pick between their feathers, and dart
the small seeds of their eyes at each
other and at every corner. He named
them royalty—Divinity and Majesty.

They must know he flew far away.
The one who described their cries
has left the nest in Paisley Park.



The Most Beautiful Girl

Listening to “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” play
seven times on your birthday must mean that Prince
was proclaiming a widely unrecognized truth nestled
in the garden of your body that grows without tending.

There was this glee in dancing to the same song seven
times and finding the flourishes of falsetto that flutter
against skin like sound of hearing a person’s smile, so
you jump across rooms and leap onto your bed, recall

The child she was knew this kind of love before she
knew adulthood’s songs, before someone said quiet
down, chipped and rubbed her bright to dull edges.
A ritual of a song echoes a celebration beneath skin.



Bathtub Mourning

Missing Prince is a looming sort of grief when lilacs
bloom purple in April and his songs document how

sweat was sacrament, so it is not ununsual to wear
purple, long for guitar riffs, or write on bathroom

tiles with a grease pencil. Words strung into lines
that could become some less wayward sentence

or a line that recalls what a lover did to become
snare, and recollection materializes as Lovesexy

runs from song to song, beginning to end, opiate
for The Black Album snatched from shelves when

you were too young to find bootlegs, and 45s still
reigned as singles and neon letters danced across

the white slate of liner notes. His perfect blowout
that begged for fingers to trace its smoothness,

and people still wonder what a free man looks
like, and others still ask what is it like to never

work a 9-to-5 but to express the odd universe
of your poems, where songs become alternate

hubs like Graffiti Bridge, conjure love, and
speak on what kills with any sign of the times.



Tara Betts ~




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