Saturday, May 15, 2010

stormy weather (15)

stormy weather

for lena horne
(1917 - 2010)

tube captured, tube enthralled -- cut off from
smell, touch, taste, heat-sense & gravity. only
my eyes & ears worked, held at electron gun

point by florescent vision – those long shapely
brown legs (with the eagles on her stockings
that flew in formation up under her hemline,

still flock in jagged colored specs & fly in
semicircular orbits around the edges of my eyes)
fill my memory now like they filled that large,

deep & heavy evacuated glass envelope so many
days of my youth ago when that heart shaped,
luminous face (that no gal made could get the

shade), those large, bold beautiful eyes paired
with that elusive smile made their impressions,
made me consider my first faustian exchange --

my soul for just a few moments, maybe just one
night. i was, afterall, 12, star-struck & heavily
hormonal. if made to choose between lena as

sweet georgia brown, god or petunia jackson,
georgia (miss brown to u!) would win every
damn time. i was no inverterate gambler then &

my real addictions were years ahead, but I felt
like a drunk heady in his very first cups. the
pleasure possibilities waxed infinite. the very

thought of her & me – a real little joe – made
a fantastical cabin in the sky seem quite absurdly
possible, even desirable. & then i heard her sing.

another night, another movie, same television...
framed against an open window adorned with

formal treatments -- swags, jabots & pleated

drapes -- that could have been several of the

imaginable colors in the middle gradient shades
of gray, between absolute black & white, looking

out on an urban evening street scene which

captured a couple scurrying to get out of the
rain & prefaced by introductory strains from the

cab calloway orchestra with a cameo of the immaculate

cab himself animatedly conducting that special
group of musicians who needed little in the way

of conducting. she sang a sultry soprano lament

(an offstage wind machine ruffling the sheer full-
length sleeves of her perfect black & sequined

dress). her perfect phrasing evoked a swarm of
associations caught up in a vertically oriented
rotating column of emotion & she sang her

heart thru the vortex, making the raging storm
a distinctive collocate of the literal; a subtle way of
grasping one kind of thing in terms of another,

fixing its elemental turbulence & power as the
central & controlling image of her lifesong:

don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky,
stormy weather, since my man & i ain't together
seems like its raining all the time

i felt the stirrings of love in that moment, for
lena & for language, for she embodied every
feature of a poem in motion draped in a

musical score. she had a way of spreading her
arms when she sang that had no paraphrase,
but just as clearly said “love me” & when

she left that open window walking down
stairs that split the orchestra into two sections
with the camera panning from full room to

a head to hip shot to climbing up her bodice
resolving in a full body shot framing her in
a spotlight on a night club floor & in my

poetic heart, she became for me more than
a beautiful, evocative
ornament, but an enduring
metaphor for the complexities of love.

© Joseph McNair; 2010


  1. She will be missed. A beautiful tribute

  2. Stormy Weather indeed! It seems as if an era has just passed on. This poem expresses an awe struck young boy being introduced to "real" womanhood. Infatuated with a woman of beauty, poise and grace. A songbird that called his name ,"Hello little Joe..."

  3. Stormy Weather is about a twelve year boy’s infatuation with Lena Horne. The poem makes reference to two of her films, Stormy Weather and Cabin in the Sky. Although Lena Horne was undoubtedly beautiful, I do not share the same sentiments at the poet but I can definitely see where he’s coming from reflecting on his younger years and their first encounter through television. The poem shows a love and appreciation that the poet has endured for Ms. Horne throughout his life; it’s actually quite cute. I, for one, can think of childhood crushes in my short life time that have indeed remained constant.

  4. In this poem it seems like you were in love with her. At first as a young boy at the age of 12 years old you say as maybe just being the most beautiful women on earth. But as you matured you saw still as a beautiful lady but with a twist she was someone who good at what she did. Lena Horne was a singer great at what she did. Ser also was an actress she didn't only have a "body" any more but she embodied who she was in the film Cabin in the sky. She knew exactly who she was she over the sigma that came with being black but embraced herself for who she was and what she had. I would say you venerate her because of the presence she brought to the stage. Lena Horne was a god in sense to you back when you were a little boy. You had and still do have respect for her. Even though I didn't know who she was I can tell that she will truly be missed.

  5. First and foremost, the photo chosen as visual for this passage not only identifies with the emotions behind the poem but it goes to vividly portray the vision of art Lena Horne was. This piece is one that touches on a more emotional level, for it truly reaches into the depths of one’s feeling towards Lena and the paths she grounded for all else to follow. After viewing clips of her performances and then reading this passage it is easy to connect to what the author is saying. For him, not only was Lena a vision of wonder but she was, for him, love; a greater message that this piece goes to speak of. It is so to say that the admiration he holds for Lena is one that is defined by love; a definition that encompasses the profound complexities that are used to build the foundation for love and all the elements that are intertwined with it.

  6. I think she was a wonderful singer despite the issue back then of race and whatnot. She was incredibly beautiful and acting just seemed to look as natural as the sun with her. Stormy Weather took my breath away with all of those emotions raining down just like the weather outside her window. Who would deny the beautiful suductress in Cabin in the Sky? If only Hollywood saw more of her worth then they did, i bet they regret it every second. The world has lost an amazing woman on so many levels not just from Stormy Weather or Cabin in the sky. Now that she has passed on she leaves us with an incredible legacy and is now an angel in the sky.

  7. Lena Horne was definitely a legend. This was a beautiful poem and it was very romantic. I enjoyed reading this poem because I believe that anyone can relate to. Everyone has had a “crush” on a celebrity and when you are 12 years old it tends to be a bit more intense. As I watched the movie clips it was apparent that she was a very talented actress and singer, and she broke the mold for many other actresses.

  8. A young boy sees a beautiful woman on the silver screen. He doesn’t know what has come over him. Is it love, is it lust, or is it more than that? This poem explains how J. McNair felt when he saw the beautiful and amazing Lena Horne in the movie Stormy Weather and a Cabin in The Sky as a twelve year old boy. Lena made him feel like he could be little Joe in a Cabin in The Sky. He also felt that he could be the one to cheer Lena up because her man left her in Stormy Weather. He said that he may of felt this way because of hormones or some other reason. I fell that it was the latter. For him, she was an inspiration. She was what he could be and what he could do. She taught him about love and its hardships. She was what black women could be and what black men could have.

  9. This poem was exceptionally interesting and heartfelt. I, for one, did not know about Lena Horne, but after watching a few videos, I have gained respect for her work. She is a very beautiful and talented woman. This poem is so vivid and detailed that I felt like I was right there watching her with you. As a 12 year old boy, I can understand why you looked at her as if she was some kind of goddess. Lena Horne was very talented and deserves the admiration you are giving her. Your poem is extremely touching and it made me appreciate Lena even though I didn’t know her.

  10. Before reading the poem on Lena Horne I knew very little of her. The only thing I knew was that she was a famous African American singer. My reaction to Lena Horne after reading the poem was that she was a beautiful black woman that men admire. From her head to her toe and even her beautiful voice Men were so infatuated with her. She will sing songs that they can relate to. Lena Horne will always be remembering for her beautiful voice.

  11. I never knew anything about Lena Horne until today, but it is a wonderful pleasure for me to get to know about a beautiful and talented woman. I enjoyed reading this poem because it could relate to anybody. And for me, she wasn't only a singer, but a real good actress. She was a gifted woman and she accomplishes something with her gift. But now, she passed away, her name will always remember.

    R.I.P Lena Horne

  12. I feel like this poem just shows the different Paradigms that come about as time goes on.
    When the boy was twelve- this woman was the most beautiful human ever created.
    However, as he grew up his Paradigm shifted from the importance of her beauty to the importance of what she does.
    And this to me is what it is all about.
    When we view something at first, we have a judgement of what that person or thing is without even understanding the background to it.
    But once time goes on, and we understand more of the backgrounds of things then everything becomes more clear and the picture can become better understood.