“Ain’t Got No / I Got Life” by Nina Simone
In the face of unrest, in the presence of increased police militarization, in the wake of Ferguson, in the era of stop and frisk, in a Detroit without water, in the daily hatred directed towards women on the internet and in the streets, in the war in Gaza, & in looking at a future of endless drone strikes, it’s difficult not to feel powerless. And also difficult in smaller ways too: in my shitty apartment with the broken door, electrical issues, and torn up floor, I sit & feel far from those I love. And what have I got?
The power of this song is in its reversal—in what it overcomes: the movement from “Ain’t got” to “I got.” It’s reaffirming in the same way CA Conrad’s (soma)tic exercise about being mugged is—to wake up, predict your death, and then feel every part of your body: “STARTING at the tips of your toes touch your cells of skin and nails, feel bones, your pulse, hair, feel your moving body in the morning ALWAYS moving as long as you live you are moving blood through veins moving thoughts through dreams.” Nina lists off the parts of her body as if feeling each cell as the exercise instructs—or perhaps she’s finding her poem inside her body like bpNichol does in “Pome Poem.” Her list builds & builds until she declares, “I’ve got life.” The song encapsulates it all from the bad to the good and ultimately lands on the side of life being worth living, or at the very least acknowledging the power of what’s in the human body, the strength we draw from within, the exhilaration of being fully present.
Gina Myers is the author of two full-length poetry collections A Model Year (Coconut Books, 2009) and Hold It Down (Coconut Books, 2013), as well as numerous chapbooks. She lives in Philadelphia where she works in media communications and serves as editor for Lame House Press and senior editor of Coconut Magazine.
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Contact Jackie Clark: jackie [at] coldfrontmag [dot] com.
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