Ode to Elizabeth Ramsey


She had a gap between her two front teeth,
and her signature song was "Proud Mary."
In the '60s you came to know her after she
won a singing contest on Student Canteen.
Had it been part of your vocabulary back then,
you might have used "Afro" to describe her head
of wiry hair. You might turn out the way she did,
too, if your father was a Jamaican marine
stationed in the Philippines, and your mother
from the Visayas. You might think comedy a way
to deflect attention from the features everyone
loved to point out jeeringly--- skin of darkest
brown it was almost black, a lipsticked overbite
glowing under stage lights. "Negrita," they'd call
almost lovingly; but you'd strut across the stage,
belt out the rock & roll and rhythm & blues until
their seeing drowned in thunderous applause.
  

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