Poems inspired by Prince from Jackie Chou

Starfish and Coffee
(inspired by Prince's Starfish and Coffee)

I wake up to coffee I make,
Nestle instant with green tea,
powdered creamer,
and a dash of Sweet and Low.
It tastes crappy,
but I love the feeling it brings.

I cannot afford Starbucks,
miss the whipped cream,
the caramel swirls.
Don't like maple syrup and jam,
or ham, or tangerine,
but orange marmalade with butter,
on crusty biscuits from KFC.

My mother clothed me 
in mildewed sweaters.
I wouldn't be surprised,
if she fed me starfish for breakfast.
She'd pack it in a grimy tin box,
for all my classmates to see,
just like the song goes.


Raspberry Parade: A Ghazal for Prince

On my way home from the cabaret,
I realize I've lost my beret.

The street is an endless parade,
raspberries on my float, not a beret. 

Vagabonds crowd the sidewalks,
wrapped in colorful rags, but no beret.

I wear a red dress my mother bought,
with a crystal tiara, not a beret.

She passed away in 1994, 
and the song isn't about me but a beret.

Bio Note: I write free verses, rhyming poems, and Japanese short form poetry, some of which saw the light of day in journals like Alien Buddha Zine, Spillwords, and Cajun Mutt Press, Fevers of the Mind Press. I am also a Jeopardy fan.




Poems Inspired by Prince “A Purple Showcase” from Emma Lee

Seven Seven Bleeker Street

(Written by Prince, sung by Jill Jones)

It wasn't even an A-side.
A simple beat thickened by bass,
a swirling guitar melody,
an alto female voice building towards the third verse
before falling in the final refrain.
The lyrics a generic afterthought
based on long vowels and feminine rhymes
so the lines drift into the melancholy
of a long-lost first love, a first home.
Even the number is expressed as two digits
to avoid the masculine tee in the middle.
News and social media speculate 
over the cause of death of the song's writer.
I sit in my car on a frosty street
lined with birches, white bark visible,
sunlight creeping over the rooftops,
about to run my first errand of the day
when the song sneaks unbidden into my head.

A Syncopated Cha Cha
2 dancers, one of whom is deaf, dance a cha cha to Prince's "Raspberry Beret"

Raspberry is the colour of the subversive.
She's a glittery, gum-chewing, bohemian mystery
whose easing into character as a brash New Yorker
was helped when a broken hearing aid left
her unable to gauge how loud her voice was.
Her syncopated steps: swivel, check, replace,
side, belie a quiet control under the impression
of casualness: the outfit that took several hours
to throw together, wild waves still governed
by a tide. Some shades of raspberry are blue,
a reminder of their undertone of tartness.
An excellent teacher knows he is a catalyst
cheering from the sidelines as his pupil shines.
Unseen hairpins keep the beret in place. 
Some things are practised not until the dancer
gets it right, but until she can't get it wrong.

Purple Lights over the Mediterranean

How many teens can tell a tale 
of a rocky relationship with dad,
rebellion tempered by the need 
for food, shelter or money?

A tale of a passion for something 
misunderstood by someone 
who wants you to follow their template?
Of sneakily rehearsing, playing, writing
while pretending to be someone else?

How many teens compare their life
to being in a warzone,
navigating choppy waters,
or desperately bailing out 
knowing the flimsy boat will sink?

How many teens have been cast adrift
by parents who want to do their best?
How many, caught somewhere
between childhood and adulthood,
have been pushed out to sink or swim?

Whose stories do we listen to?
The famous man with a guitar-lined basement
or the teen enthusiast drifting
on a prayer in the Mediterranean?



Bio: Emma Lee’s publications include “The Significance of a Dress” (Arachne, 2020) and "Ghosts in the Desert" (IDP, 2015). She co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea,” (Five Leaves, 2015), was Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib, reviews for magazines and blogs at https://emmalee1.wordpress.com. 

More From Emma: 3 poems from Emma Lee

Poem: Tracing a Love Song by Emma Lee