Nina Simone Reminds Me to Suffer No Fools

Two poems by Akhim Alexis

Nina Simone Reminds Me to Suffer No Fools

On the album cover for Black Gold by Nina Simone

The afro is omnipresent, like skyline, like the raspiness of its owner, Nina, who is a revolutionary with moveable overtones. Her skin warms the green background and is caressed by musical notes, the longer you look they more they seem to move, like little people seeking refuge in the warmth of her cheeks, umbrella’d by her green afro. There is nothing below the neck, her head floats, ghostly, so it seems like she lingers between myth and memory, and this prepares you for the live recording. When she sings “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” I stop and consider how thin the minutes are, because every time I hear this song I’m disappointed in how I spent the day. I’m reminded that I’m running out of time to prove something, to finally finish all the studying that facilitates a comprehensive excuse for why I don’t have a formidable social life, or why I don’t have a significant other. It is the afro-futuristic boldness of this cover that reminds me that I too am omnipresent, if I chose to be. Because Nina was known for many things, but her reputation as a woman who suffered no fools, precedes her. So when she spends half of the song “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” talking about time and self-preservation, I listen to hear myself in her voice, “You use up everything you’ve got when you give everybody what they wanted. But I will learn my lesson soon,” she says. Consider how time and culture work in tandem through this album cover, how the title makes parallel two colors, a most valuable product, the chemical element of atomic number 79, and the most beautiful being, a dark-skinned people. Black/Gold.

The Sound of Blue

You should start with rhyme, 
with the syncopation of maps inscribed on your tongue
branding yourself a new taxonomy, 
like the dizzying rage of unruly psycho-cum-fantastic people 
trading fairness, for freeness
click your tongue and recount the revelry, 
recount the bizarre, 
because take it from me, it's better to start from sound than from solution,
and with all climatic things becoming cyclic, there is no denouement anyway, 
not for some time. 
Which is why it’s best to listen for the sound 
of hot-blooded conversation grumbling down the sidewalk, 
making its way to podiums of pulsating hate, 
of radical world-making, of jazz-infused ideas blooming in protest, 
of police choruses, a litany of thumping questions and commands 
such as, where are you from/you have the right to/do you have registration
/put your hands on, take your hands off/ put your hands above
put your hands up/answer the question/ turn off the camera/ get out/ where is your father?
Of these echoes you should listen 
for the riffing boorishness of state-sanctioned uniforms broadcasting
a soundscape of the not so new ordinary. 
You should listen to hear life gasping, 
battling its constant pneumonias, begging for new respite, 
running circles around old-wars, 
asking us to hear the sirens of rainbows busting into inferno, 
ending in dim silence.

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