“What’s Love Got to Do With It” by January Gill O’Neil

January Gill O’Neil


And when Tina sings I’ve been taking on 
a new direction directly to camera,
defiant, her lips glazed a tumultuous red,
she takes her hand and adjusts her 
honey brown bangs out of her eyes
then continues singing about her own
protection. That MTV moment—Tina 
in a denim jacket and leather skirt,
her million-dollar legs in black-seamed hose 
wearing fuck-Ike-this-is-my-video heels, 
a long way from “Nutbush City Blues”—
indelible on my 15-year-old psyche 
when I had no idea what love had to do 
with anything—but I understood it was work, 
even painful, watching my parents argue 
and stay together, years later arguing with my ex 
and not staying together. It’s only now 
into my half-life I can speak of that sweeping 
gesture, how the imperfectness of the moment 
stayed with me all these years, not as a gaffe 
or faux pas for the cutting room floor, 
but from a woman in full command of her power, 
flaws and all, Tina’s hand gliding like the phases 
of the moon, that love could be second hand, 
given to pleasure, the rough music 
that remains after the light passes through us 
because who needs a heart when a heart 
can be broken.  

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022


January Gill O’Neil: “Memory is amazing. With all the infinite moments we are continuously making and shedding, this frame of Tina Turner flicking her hair away in the video has stayed with me. It’s a mere second where we see her grit and self-reliance. Honestly, I don’t know where ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’ came from, but I am thrilled I was here to greet it when it arrived.” (web)

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