A NIGHT AT THE ROSE

Three beers over two hours
and, giddy, I want to sing
along with the Irish house band
in my horribly off key voice,
just two choruses
of Irish Rover or Four Green Fields.
It’s beginning to snow outside
and it’s a four-block walk
to the Government Center station.
I suppose it would sober me up
but a couple of more songs
couldn’t hurt, I’ve got two hours
before the last train and we can
walk across the campus
through the tunnels
once we’re back in Cambridge.
I probably should have gone
with Coors or Bud Lite
but Guinness is, all said,
a meal in a glass.
I would stand now,
but my knees seem
comatose, so let’s sing
to Auld Robbie, a verse or two
of Scots Wa Hae, it’s damn
near Irish anyway
and from this seat
in the Black Rose
Cambridge is a world away.


First Published in Celt at Aberffraw (Wales, UK) 2000

FESTIVAL

They ebb and flow
like tides down the half-empty street
from venue to venue,
many with that lost look
of years in the desert, driven
on by promised
the land of honey notes,
the mother’s milk of jazz.
The event passes flap in the breeze
created by their wake, some
checking programs, their
personal map to the festival.
We stand on the corner
watching humanity engage
in the ritual we, after 14 years,
have chosen now only to observe.

KEYS

He sits, suited in black, with 88
keys at his command,
and we fall silent.
He opens the lock of joy,
the lock of sadness,
the lock of elation,
the lock of tears,
the lock of laughter,
the lock of darkness,
the lock of light,
the lock of surprise,
the lock of compassion,
the lock of love,
and we peer through each door,
unable to enter fully
unable to turn away.
As we walk out, we know
we have tasted Buddha’s promise truth
and we go off in search
of the 63,999 remaining Dharma doors.

AROUND

What they simply cannot understand
is what his take as a vinyl disc
is a moment in a life, a memory encased,
over which a dancing stylus bleeds dreams
and a history of time is written
on the back of its sleeve.
They cannot grasp that music
doesn’t fit neatly in your pocket,
that your neck can grow tired
from the weight of the headphones
bringing voices and instruments to life.
They want all of life portable,
we only want to sit, to be anchored
and watch the disc and our lives
spin slowly around, in a musical kinhin.

ETUDE

Today was perfectly ordinary
which is how I would have my days
and how they so seldom agreed to be.
I did pause and look at the Yamaha keyboard
and remembered that when the Court
of the Empress Theresa rejected Mozart,
he attended the symphonies of Haydn
as a form of consolation.
That reminds me that I, once,
played the piano not particularly well,
but with what my teacher said
was a great depth of feeling.
Haydn, who I love to this day,
had nothing to do with my quitting,
it was Handel and his Largo
from his opera Xerxes that was
my undoing, a burden to large
for my smallish hands to bear.
I did find a recording of the Largo
and listening, gazed at my hands,
and for a moment I wondered
if they might just have finally
grown sufficiently large.

NAME THAT TUNE

He says, “I write songs
without music, my head
Is a libretto warehouse.”
She says, “You string words
like random beads, no
two strands the same.”
He says, “Symmetry is
for those with linear minds
who can’t see out of the tunnel.”
She says, “Dysentery, verbal,
is a disease to be avoided
particularly by poets.”
He says, “I’ll sing a song
for you if I can only
find the right notes.”
She says, “Fine, but know
it is the silent space between
the notes were the music truly lives.”

RADIO DAZE

There was a great deal
I wanted to say, after all
when you end the broadcast career
that spanned forty-three years
you want to be entitled
to a farewell address.
She said, “you’ve been on the air
here for two years, and
reading the news to the blind
once a week for half an hour
hardly constitutes a career.
And as for the three years
you did on the college station,
forty years before this,
I’m surprised even you
can remember anything you said.”
Somewhere in the herbal fog
of memory I knew she was right.