MISSING SONGS

The problem, or one of them, is
the lack of music today. We have
all manner of what people call music,
but not the music of the sort
we need, needed once and found,
as we stormed the bastions
and bastards who mired us in war,
who shunned darker brothers
and sisters, who made alienable
basic rights to half of us without
rhyme or reason, save greed
and fear of loss of status, power.

Where are the songs now,
calling us, you, to regain
the victories, no matter how small
that we won with our sweat
and often our blood, eroded
or taken over time by those
who live in the shadows, who
crawl out in the dark, who
dread the light we would
so willingly shine on them again.

WRITING MY STORY

With the stroke of a pen,
they enabled me to write the story,
gave a framework on which
I could hang all manner
of dreams and assumptions,
inviting a search I never
quite got around to making.

I wandered the beaches
of Estoril in my dreams,
stalked the avenues of Lisbon,
looking for a familiar face,
but found only ghosts.

With the stroke of a swab
inside my cheek, a vial
of saliva mailed, the story
came apart, and a new story
slowly unfolded, gone forever
was Iberia, replaced by Scotland
and Ireland, Wales, Norway
and Germany, and my dreams
were filled with the music
of the bodhran and Highland pipes.

MIX TAPE

There is an art
to creating a mix tape,
more so to day, when
tape is usually only
found in museums
and antique stores.

Then you chose carefully
aware of the sonics,
aware of the limits on time,
weaving a musical tapestry.

You can do a mix CD
but everyone knows
that with tape you listened
all the way through,
for fast forward was only
for getting to the end
of the cassette to play
the B-side, and CD’s
have no B sides to play.

HARD TIME

I was only in jail once,
then for four hours, no charges
and my biggest fear was that
my parents would find out,
or the cops would determine
that I was only 17 and breaking
the park curfew was not
even a misdemeanor.

They let me go, gave me
a ride back to the park,
told me not to go in but
I wouldn’t at 2 A.M. 
I assured them,
I’d go home and get some slee
before reporting to the University
for my summer research position.


All these years later I wonder
if that was possibly the cell
that Joe Hill occupied once,
or just what other manner
of criminal I might have 
shared space with, hopefully
someone not merely charged
with violating park curfew.

IN CHORUS

Deep in a small forest,
a murmuring brook reflects
the shards of sun sliding
through the crown of pines,
its whispered wisdom
infinitely more clear
than the babbling of men
holding the reins firmly
in distant cities of power.

The birds know this well,
sing of it in chorus, nature’s
music, jazz scatting that
the graying clouds absorb,
an always willing audience,
and the wind rushing by
cries through the trees
in the voice of long dead 
poets whose words offer
a truth to which cloistered
talking heads have grown deaf.

First published in Pages Penned in Pandemic , 2021

TOO WAY BACK MACHINE

Platform shoes, velour
Nehru jackets, what the hell
were we thinking, and pink
velour, seriously, for men.

At least it was Hendrix, Byrds,
and not Pat Boone and Andy
Williams, almost the death
of music as we know it.

Reefers were evil, told us so,
and when we figured out it was
pot, we begged to differ, frequently
between hits on the bong,

after all joints required a certain
amount of dexterity in the rolling
and tjat progressively slipped away
with the afternoon sun.

Now it’s chardonnay and pinot
and a good reposado or anejo,
or a blanco if company appears
and triple sec then, never Cointreau.

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.

THE CLUB

It’s jazz, it’s a club,
but there what once was
is no more, there are
no ashtrays on the table,
overflowing early into
the second set, no cloud
of cigarette smoke descending
from the too dark ceiling.
There is no recognizable odor
of a freshly lit Gaulloise,
in the trembling fingers of
a young man trying to look cool,
trying not to cough on each
inhalation, in the calm fingers
of a young woman who
you know speaks the fluent
French of her homeland.
It is none of those things
but it is jazz, it is a club
and in this city, now, it must suffice.