This was originally written a year and a day after Prince died.
Last year I was sitting quiet in a library, trying to write this thing I have in me but struggles to get out, and my phone started buzzing. I can ignore it for a while but eventually I look: Prince is presumed dead, found in an elevator alone. My phone blows up and I stop writing. I stop everything because I still can’t imagine he’s gone a year from then, now, alone myself.
I walked in the neighborhood and heard him everywhere. Everywhere.
I went tonight to the VFW in Uptown, which has changed considerably from its 80s incarnation. I’m fairly sure I voted there once way back in the day, walking past full ashtrays right below no smoking signs, our veterans more than exempt from whatever clean air act. Now it’s a dance club and bar and whatever else. I’m stamped coming in, and banded in the area with a dj.
My adolescent sexuality was burned indelibly with Prince’s songs. You could probably map me by a collection of lines set behind music that originate in his fingers and throat.
Last year I went dancing on a Sunday, pushing my way into First Avenue, ten minutes after bar close. Clouds of reefer smoke hung in the air, purple-blue and turning slowly, while the dance floor moved and moved and moved. There were couples getting well more than handsy down in the dark and movement. I like to think there are a collection of Prince babies, three months old, conceived while we worked out our grief.
I haven’t been able to deal with this anniversary in the least. I listened to Mary Lucia spin his b-sides for an hour: Erotic City and How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore and Another Lonely Christmas. I dance to Erotic City and I can’t believe its candor, its rawness.
Erotic City can’t you see
Fuck so pretty you and me.
This shit is like 17th Century religious poetry, John Donne overcome and battered by his diety, and at the same time writing of lovers and biting fleas and the silken lines of bullshit artists everywhere.
For thee, thou need’st no such deceit,
For thou thyself art thine own bait
Any biography is autobiography.
I had this idea I would run through my favorite songs and play their personal exegesis. But I don’t think I can, not now, not on this day. This now, these words, are the fuzzing carbon dioxide left as the drink flats. Dance was the way I grieved again, working it out through my pores like sweat and a pounding bass. Working it out in the smoked end of the night, two breaths before the ember burns down and ignites the filter.
Suck it in deep and breathe it out slow. Watch it roll in the night air. That is your breath, rising. Amen.