STARING

He liked nothing better
then to sit outside
his small cottage
and stare into the pond
once the blaze on the water
set by the sun was consumed
as fire must always be by water.
As night deepened, he stared
into the sky, seeing the moon
slowly rise, chasing along
the sun’s now deserted path.
He knew the myriad of stars
shared his interest, staring
but he abandoned the sky
as the sun had yet again,
and watched as the voracious pond
slowly consumed the ever
fewer stars, and saw the pond’s
moon take up its liquid
dance to the tune of the night breeze

JE SAIS QUOI

I admit I am an odd duck, odder for not being a duck at all. But the expression has a certain je ne sais quoi to it, as does that expression and I am all about language. All that is a long round about way of acknowledging that I have always wanted to use the word antiphonal in my writing. I’m not terribly religious, and what faith I had has long been shaken by a world gone mad. Or at least a country gone mad. And even when I had some faith, I subscribed to the syllogism that religions music was to music, as military food was to food. We won’t even mention military music, that is an abject oxymoron.

PERCUSSION

After years of going to live jazz
I’ve honed my skills to a fine level.
I still know next to nothing
about the intricacies of the music,
five years of classical piano and
I barely understand Bach and Mozart.

But I know where to look, who
bears watching in the combo,
and it isn’t the trumpeter, he
with his ballooning cheeks, some
clownish bellows, or the bassist
always striving hard to develop
scoliosis, the sax player with
the rubber spine swaying.

I watch the percussionists, piano
and drums, careening from
sadness to joy and hitting
a glissando of emotions, the pianist
staring at the keys, lecturing them
on expectations for us well met,
for her falling short, and the music
slides into the background of life
in the process of being lived.

MELODY

I sing a shattered song
of someone else’s youth
the melody forgotten
the words faded into odd
syllables heard in my dreams.
The coyote stands at the edge
of a gully staring at me
and wondering why I slip
from the hogan through
the hole punched
in the back wall
slinking away
in the encroaching dark.
The priest, his saffron robes
pulled tight around his legs
in the morning chill,
stares as I run my hands
across the giant brass bell
feeling its resonance.
I hear the dirge
as sleep nips at the edge
of my consciousness
grabbing the frayed
margins of life

Published in These Lines, Fall 2020
https://theselines.org/these-lines-1.1-fall-2020.pdf

SONGWRITER

Bob Dylan is, to the best of my knowledge,
the only songwriter to successfully rhyme
outrageous and contagious, which doesn’t
explain why I knew I could never be
a successful songwriter in this life.

The explanation is far simpler, it was when
Leonard Cohen served me tea and apricots,
said he hated the river even living in Montreal
and said I should pack off to Florida or
California if I wanted oranges, though he
said, if I ever visited China, if I’d see
where their oranges came from.

We’re all older now, Leonard is dead
and even Bob admits he’s not sure
he’s younger now, but he says, Bob that is,
that I need to get over keeping up
with the Joneses, because in the final
analysis, we are all Jones at the end.

NOTING WEATHER

The weather, he announced to no one in particular,
ought to be musical or at least
incorporate some jazz.

Spring is bebop, Trane and Parker,
the sudden clash of Blakey
the downpours of Dizzy

and the hint of what’s to come
on the fingers of Monk, and
Kenny and Milt.

Summer brings the slow easing
as early Miles slides in, and we
sink into Chet and Stan.

Bebop returns as summer fades
but turns harder, with Dexter
Sonny and Benny and we know

that winter approaches, with its
disconcert, the sun an ever
more infrequent visitor,

Ornertte and Pharaoh reminding us
that the dark cold was our share
until Sun Ra appears on the horizon.

A SIMPLE SONG

It’s simple enough to write a song,
that’s what I heard him say,
and though I doubted that wholly
he say try, just give it a day.

I promised I would try to write
but I knew that I’d fail in time
for even Leonard Cohen now
and then used a subtle rhyme

and that is not something for which
I was ever cut out, I’m certain
and he laughed when I said I failed,
and retreating, pulled shut the blinds.

NOT SLEEPING NOW

The kid is late again today, but that
is sadly not unusual, the old man said.
I ought to get rid of him, but I know
he needs the job to feed his family.

In the meanwhile, I’ll now have
to hobble down to the meadow
and hope my collie, who’s as old as I,
is up to the job of herding sheep still.

And I know that he will only shrug
when I threaten to dock his pay
for the loss, hell, even just the profit
I lost on the corn the cows consumed.

I get that he’s tired, those late night
gigs at club in town, and I hear that
he’s thinking of joining a trio in Chicago,
though I have no idea how they ever

heard his playing out here in fly-over-ville,
but I guess I’d better let him get his rest,
for if he becomes a star, maybe he’ll
remember me in his first CD’s liner notes.

CAT (PSYCH)OLOGY

It wasn’t until I hit
middle age, which on my scale
will allow me to live past 100,
that I discovered that cats
are Celtic deep in their hearts.
Our cat, she who adopted me
and forced her then owner
to marry me, like it or not,
was in love with the tin whistle
and the uilleann pipes playing
had her in my lap, unmoving.
But she had her Buddhist side
as well, sitting zazen for hours,
longer if accompanied by
shakuhachi flutes. She said
that cats were discerning,
were connoisseurs of music
loved cello, viola and violin
but barely tolerated the bass.
It was why, she said, all
the great composers wrote
for the higher strings.
And, she would add,
as for dogs, well they
loved country music most,
reason enough for pity.