Happy New Year from Sunday Morning Lyricality. Lyricality leadership team member Kelly Travis has chosen “Will Of A Prince” by Ed Bok Lee to wish us a year as beautiful, colorful, and well loved as Minnesota’s cultural icon.
Dearly beloved we are gathered here today to read: WILL OF A PRINCE by Ed Bok Lee. Four years ago Prince died and the radio stations filled the void by playing his music for days. A cultural icon. A great musician. An iconic singer and songwriter. A fantastic dresser. A man who owns a color. Prince was more than a pop icon to Minnesotans; he was family. Prince died without a will and Ed Bok Lee filled the void by making one for him. Ed’s visceral response to Prince dying was a preparation of a beautiful will of the most beloved child of Minneapolis. It is impossible to overstate Prince’s influence on Minnesota and the world. Ed does a great job capturing it here and celebrating Prince in all the lines of this poem, see if you can find them for yourself. However, before you read, you might want to change into something purple and put on some stilettos.Kelly Travis
Will Of A Prince
Ed Bok Lee
“Prince died without a will…”
—New York Times
To the first song I wrote at seven years old
on my father’s forbidden piano, I leave
the sacred key of audacity. I don’t know
who will press their hungering
across their own set of onyx & ivory
in a generation or two or three, but to all
those millions of little hands, I offer up my fingers
like two willows in a breeze.
To the legacy of sound, I bequeath
these eardrums I must now take off like tantric jewels,
lustrous & shimmering with funk. To all the controversy
I created in my lifetime, I leave no apologies
& thirty-eight other albums.
To the wild doves who taught me
mine see what blinds
trapped inside a diamond, I leave
a castle of psychedelic stained-glass windows, flung open
for fluttering you, even in the wintertime. To my life-
long relationship with God, I offer the faithful
dot of my naked body bowing under the great curvaceous mystery
of His question mark.
To Minneapolis, I leave a legion of little Northside Mozarts
air-guitaring their way up the charts
(& in the meantime hooping all summer with two rusty nets & a long-range
To the more politically outspoken role some wished I’d played, I leave
my charismatic gaze & melodic sashays up & down the stage.
To the hip bones I nearly ground to dust with splits & pirouettes,
I leave a half acre of broken stilettos. To my love
of rock, I leave my penchant to pop like a super boss-
a nova; to my obsession with funk, my repertoire
of gospel & opera. To my reverence for big band jazz,
I leave all the instruments I never learned how to play professionally or for fun,
which, of course, y’all know was none.
To my modesty, I don’t leave shit.
To my spontaneity, I lay at your feet the lassoing curiosity of my vocal cords.
To my falsetto, you dirty little girl, I unclothe my loveliest closet baritone.
To my androgyneity, you angel in a demon’s dream,
I leave a glyph pointing down to both question & answer.
I thank you, though you didn’t always treat me so well,
I still love you & always will.
To the deer who fog my window just before dawn,
I leave my muse asleep at the piano.
To all the verbena, clematis & lavender in the world,
I give back with ample interest all the purple I ever borrowed.
To my race, I leave behind the pop apartheid of the 80’s.
To joy, I give my rococo beats, guitar riffs cataclysmic,
jabby synths & shiver-inducing screams. To melancholy,
I bequeath a slew of haunting coos & creamy soulful feasts.
To fate, I leave all my most buoyant bass lines —funkadelic from outer space.
I never really believed in the material world, so to it, I leave
all the magic that wherever I played, I always left entire & sizzling on stage.
To my sincerity, I bestow a pimp-strut promenade.
To my swag, I offer my two-pears-in-a-plastic-bag ass cheeks,
sometimes minus the bag. I know, honey I know,
in spiritual matters sometimes I had to knock on your door.
To all my pronouncements on morality, I leave a thousand free
concerts in my home, to which anyone, & I mean anyone, was always welcome.
To my final days, I offer up a song I wrote
but myself don’t yet know how to hear, a soul
that my whole life kept changing its composer.
To all the godfathers & godmothers
yet to be born & bear the weight of theirs, I leave
this cosmic, contradictory, sacrilegious chord.
Go on, play it if you dare.
It shrieks true through my navel & just 4 U
I left the door wide open.
Ed Bok Lee is the author of Whorled (Coffee House Press) and a recipient of a 2012 American Book Award and the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry. Lee is the son of North and South Korean emigrants–his mother originally a refugee from what is now North Korea; his father was raised during the Japanese colonial period and Korean War in what is now South Korea. Lee grew up in South Korea, North Dakota, and Minnesota, and was educated there and on both U.S. coasts, Russia, South Korea, and Kazakhstan. He teaches at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Other honors include the Asian American Literary Award (Members’ Choice Award) and a PEN Open Book Award.
“Will Of A Prince” Used by permission from Mitochondrial Night (Coffee House Press, 2019). Copyright © 2019 by Ed Bok Lee.