An encomium for Oscar Brown Jr.'s "Jeannine" / "new, young love, wrapped in the forever of each other's smiles"



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An Encomium for Oscar Brown Jr.'s "Jeannine"
by Nia I'man Smith

"Last time,
last I saw Jeannine
recall when we were 17..."


she would let me call her "Jean" on the nights we danced with fireflies and I kissed the watermelon juice drippin from her chin. "Here's My Heart" perfumin her neck. stiff pin curls soft clouds against my collar. my hands, gentle waves for Jeannine to call to tide on the nights when the world wasn't nothin but me and her dancin 'neath a lemon colored moon. we was new, young love, wrapped in the forever of each other's smiles and washed of her momma's talk that she was too young to go steady with some boy-'specially the likes of me. the first time I come callin for Jeannine, her momma took one look at the oil stained rag crawlin outta my pocket, spat in the direction of my scuffed Brogans, and slammed the screendoor shut. Heard her hollerin somethin to Jeannine bout me lookin like one of them "po' backwoods niggas." the kind who money only run as long as the spellin of they first name. say she wasn't workin all them hours to send Jeannine over to Miz Tinsley to learn her manners, so she could watch her walk off her porch hand in hand wit some broke country boy. but Jean wasn't nothing like her momma. in looks or sensibility. she had a tenderness to her at 17 that I ain't seen or felt in no woman since them nights when she would throw her head back and laugh easy with the cicadas whenever I tried to lead.

she say:
hold me close.
pull me in tight.
like you love me.


or like tryin to remember those nights with Jean long after her mama sent her away, leaving my palms oceans of dry land.

The song, "Jeannine" appears on Oscar Brown Jr.'s classic 1963 album, Tells It Like It Is!