NAME THAT CLOUD

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 nto 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 Pharoah reminding us
that the dark cold was our share
until Sun Ra apears on the horizon.

MADNESS

There are things in life
that are quite clearly beyond
any rational explanation.
Take, as an example, the song
that crawls into your head
and absolutely refuses to leave.
If it were Mozart or Bach
it might be excusable, if Beethoven
at least reluctantly forgivable,
but it is never the great masters.
Tonight, it is the ancient song
“Lemon Tree,” and there is little worse
then Trini Lopez crawling around your head.
refusing adamantly to leave.
I could live with Peter,
Paul, would welcome Mary
But this is Trini’s night and I
must be thankful Tony Orlando
and Barry Manilow took the night off.

REQUIREMENT

She moves with the fluidity
that suggests she has
been trained as a dancer, though
she denies it, says that she
has no interest in dance, barely
tolerates music and then only
because it sometimes is a requirement.
She smiles, though it doesn’t seem
at all natural to her, more another thing
she does because she believes
is quite often required.
Hers is a life of requirements
and she strives to be compliant,
choosing to hide a seething passion
deep within, for it terrifies her:
this is what she was taught
by her mother, how she survived
four older brothers, a father who
feared his reflection in the whiskey bottle
and quickly erased it,,
the devil deal with consequences,
the pain on her mother’s face,
she often too slow to duck.
She knows the day is coming when he
will be repaid by her, and she hopes
no one she loves is near Ground Zero.

JIM AND JIMI

I made it past 27, which says I’m either an optimist or have almost no musical talent. When I made it through 54 I knew I’d never get burned buried in Paris, never be mourned as a great talent taken or taking myself too young. Now it’s five years until 72 and I know if I make it, I’ll never have the guts, sense, or stupidity to do myself in, so lets now all lift a glass to Jim and Janice, Robert and Jimmy, and hope they play Kurt and Amy when my ferryman finally arrives.

VIOLIN

We sat at the table,
sucking the last of the djej
from the bones piled
along the edge of the platter.
“I played for seven years”
he said, “under Tilson-Thomas
and later Rudel, bad years those,
I sat two rows back
second from the stage edge.”

He was unremarkable,
forgettable until he nestled
the violin under his chin.
Balding even then
the fringe of hair clownish,
lacking only a red nose.
At the old metal desk
he struggled over applications
for insurance policies,
forever asking if he had
the premiums calculated right,
stumbling over the pitch,
dreading the word death,
preferring to talk of his bow
dancing across the strings.
He sold just enough policies
to make his monthly draw
and generate an override commission
to help pay our mortgage
but he would, my father said,
never make much
of a career in insurance.
When I sat in the office
on the old leather sofa
he asked me to marvel
that an old man, bitter
and stone deaf, could hear
so clearly, alone in a small room.
I listened politely, waiting
until he might be distracted
and I could return to neatly
arranging the pink sheet
between the whites
feeding it carefully through
the rollers, and slowly peeling
it back to reveal
the dark sepia copy.

He sits on the metal bed
fingers bent into talons
and cringes at the screech
of the walker
dragging along the hall.
He wrestles with the radio knob
and hears the strains of the concerto
as a tear runs down his cheek
and he waits for the nurse
to change his incontinence pad.


First Appeared in Licking River Review, Issue 28, Winter-Spring 1996-1997.

RELEASED

It happened again last Friday as it does almost every Friday. A quick check discloses another band has released an album Live In Concert. Pause to consider the absurdity. If you are in concert the odds are astronomically in favor of your being live. I suppose someone would attend a concert where the band wasn’t there, but not this kid. I will make the rare exception to my frustration where irony demands, but it isn’t all that demanding. Still, you’ve gotta love any Grateful Dead live album, and I’m good with any Live live album. At least I no longer need to question just how it is that Dead Can Dance but I cannot, for all It’s autumn and time to take in Smashing Pumpkins again.