Call me hippo. Call the woman beneath me
a broken boat, a thin white skiff, a toothpick
unhinging a speck of pepper from between
my gaped teeth. Call the curtains closed.
Call that tour bus to cover my breasts.
Once, a man scraped me jagged as a pine cone.
I scraped him white as a star, then left him
and his head in a trough beside a pen of pigs.
Call the trough home. Call Daddy out
of this wet house. I can’t sing without hearing a man
slipping below water clean as butter, clean
as a roach sliding down the thin throat of a crow.
Call the road from Chicago to Memphis brief
encounters with an axe and a woman
who carries dust in her mouth. Call Jesus
down from that cross. Call my tongue a crown
of thorns, a patch of nettles sunk deep in an arm.
I’ve found every sparrow God has forgotten
to watch over. I’ve wreathed them in briars
and hung them from the back fence. They say
they’re tired of singing. They sang only to be noticed.
I am noticing. They are noticed. Funny, little beasts
often mistaken for something that should be pierced,
a spine broken on a thorn, then eaten—breast first.
Call me tiny, anything small: an acorn
lodged in the throat of a thrush. Choke. A claw
squeezed from the purple head of a flower. Prick.
A hunk of pork butt plucked from the gums
and placed back onto the tongue. Gag. Then swallow.
Feed me. Call my appetite a kind kingdom.
Call me Queen. King me.
 Ernestine “Tiny” Davis played trumpet and sang for the first integrated all-women’s jazz band in the 1940s called the International Sweethearts of Rythm. Her trumpet playing was so prized that Louis Armstrong offered to pay her ten times her salary with the Sweethearts to tour with him and his band. Tiny refused. When she retired from the Sweethearts, she opened a gay bar in Chicago with her lover, Ruby Lucas, called Tiny and Ruby’s Gay Spot. She died in 1994 at the age of 87.