I had a therapist once who told me during a session to listen to the Linda Ronstadt song “You’re No Good” after a sad breakup. She said doing this had always made her feel better. I didn’t go back after this.
Because just saying it never made it so.
These poems are dedicated to her, in substitution.
"Music Pink and Blue No 2" (1918)
from “Making Love,” Roberta Flack from the movie Making Love
(April 1, 2022)
Starting with the gossamer 80s keyboards,
which possibly exist nowhere else
but in the nightscape of sexuality
like an ether of the mysteries,
we float among vermouth notes. Granted,
this is not everybody’s Roberta Flack pick
but this is mine, the theme of a movie
from 1982 about a marriage ending
because its husband was gay.
1982 wasn’t ready for this covert
little bedroom trauma or a wife ruminating
about what love is. And what sex is.
Roberta emotes the wifely conclusions
and the sentiment sits
so squarely for the situation
and yet equally applies to our hetero couples
and their compounds of love and loss.
You can easily imagine all the ways:
distance, disability, dementia.
Roberta’s reassuring notes drift in and out
of the problem, near the ceilings of our feelings.
Her soft embrace of solidarity: all the comings
from our bewildering sufferings.
But then we have the noble
and surprising turn at the end,
the sex that is not everything
but quite something too,
other than, also, besides,
just another kind of treasure.
If I Were Him, I Would Too
from “No Wonder,” Barbra Streisand from the movie Yentl
(April 2, 2022)
This one is very much fun to sing,
to lip-sync karaoke,
like sailing on a craft of sarcastic Yiddish
and bright, forlorn resentment.
The humor is in the details;
the pathos of the performance.
(But who puts Mandy Patinkin in this movie
and doesn’t let him sing?
Streisand does, that’s who.
What could he say?
I want to talk to the director;
I want to talk to the creator!)
Who puts trouble girls in the hearts of men?
Who doesn’t prefer domestication?
it’s a coherent argument.
Who wants to argue? Even Streisand
is pretty agreeable by the end, yet another turn
of heart-sunk revelation. It’s no wonder.
Yes, even vitriolic sorrow would resign
in the face of the mighty gratifying
and the appeasing pleasing.
In a Crowded Street
from “Love Is Blindness,” Jack White from the movie The Great Gatsby
(April 3, 2022)
Dissolute beginnings, full of ominous dread,
the scrapping, swirling production that he is.
Poor Gatsby. Poor Gatsby in any of us.
Unthreading, unknotting, slipping on the path.
The door handle of folly. The magnet
that pulls you, against you, for you,
on behalf of what you want. Like clockwork,
it has its moments of horror
you don’t wanna see,
when it almost makes sense.
The ripping, the ripping,
the guitar ripping.
White’s proper amount of crazy,
down to the hiccup.
Numbness is the only way,
I’m telling you.
It’s like Edna St. Vincent Millay,
her body burning at both ends.
It’s a thing both muddy and crisp;
a little death. So sick of it.
Love is a match;
blow out the candle.
Madness is blindness.
Just wrap it all around me.
We Don’t Know Why It Is, Billy and Me
from “She’s Got a Way,” Billy Joel
(April 4, 2022)
There’s a kind of song that does not profess:
– to know,
– to grasp,
– to fathom.
Beatles have one that everyone likes.
There’s a good Champaign song, too.
There are maybe 100 of them
because like most things,
we don’t really know
the half of it.
(And in those first few notes, you wonder
is this the sound
One-hundred songs about a thing
Marcel Proust explained to the depths
in Swann’s Way like a decision you make,
one that might take a second
or many decades.
But it’s this getting turned around
from the mysterious draw
of the hidden undertow.
It doesn’t feel like a decision is the thing.
One-hundred songs, a million dreams:
what it is, why it is.
Turn this rock over a million times
if you must;
but too bad for you
there won’t ever be a reason anyway.
With the Tired and Weary
from “Slave to Love,” Bryan Ferry
(April 5, 2022)
On their 60th wedding anniversary my grandfather
made a big speech about a 60-year power struggle
that had, thus far, ended with a tie.
His son-in-law, my father, loves to tell the story,
as if to say this is what I married into.
The slave is always restless, and the master is unsure
in gentle late-night power struggles that are simultaneously
heartbreaking and congenial, both cruel and polite.
On music television, down art-deco staircases and aboard
human lazy suzans, the light from another room
glows on our faces. The flickering images and sounds
climb into our veins when we’re too young to reason.
My old copy of the song is from the vinyl soundtrack,
the movie with the refrigerated goods all over the floor.
And now that we’ve come to the fade out, I say I’m too grown up
and spring has already turned. So why would I be still so enthralled
with the undulating breath of this, the marching clock
and swaying hips back and forth in a dance of pleasure
and pain, surrender and resist, to the death?
Be Sensible Sonnet
from “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me,” Mel Carter
(April 6, 2022)
In the big build of poodle skirts
and soft boys hiding under grit
and moxie, first love is this:
a sweeping waltz of euphoria,
unapologetically brazen and sweet,
chocolates and suckers, both fearless
and demure. The inevitable escalations
of hurly-burly and hullaballoo.
Losing my mind in the dark with you,
is that what we want to know?
Walk me down the lane of shadows.
But is that sensible?
Could I make you tell me
if it wasn’t?
Déambulerons Dans les Rues de Paris
from “Dis, Quand Reviandras-Tu?,” Martha Wainwright
(April 7, 2022)
What a smart set, those Wainwrights.
Martha’s melodic enunciations
chip at my haunted reserve
and remind me how I mourn
the stretch of time that has past
and my own prolonged longing
like an expanding galactic ocean
with its own bewildered and blinking
points of light that seem at once
beautiful and sad and capsized
by the sailor of the chanson,
le mal d'amour.
Mais je ne suis pas aussi forte
que les femmes de marins.
Je ne suis pas la femme d'un marin.
Time is what we cannot get back;
the days past are like the dead leaves.
And if we try to hold them to our hearts
they will collapse and blow away.
And so I keep glistening and expanding
in lovesick waves, a floating luminous
Let the Time Go By
from “On the Street Where You Live,” Bill Shirley from the movie My Fair Lady
(April 8, 2022)
A month ago, my cousin told me
his father, with his deep, church-choir voice,
often sang this song to my Aunt Edith.
And who hasn’t been here, in the magic
realm of a strange familiar,
handsome in a gray suit and top hat
leaning on an iron railing
beyond a blur of yellow flowers?
A fool in love, singing big notes to the sky,
drinking up beloved boulevards and cul-de-sacs.
All the Cyrano de Bergeracs in the musicals
of technicolor Hollywood, actors lip-synching
sky-scraping, towering love bombs,
melodious rites that might yield
uncommon fate and good fortune,
enchantment out of a single door.
Could you hear a lark emote so enchantedly
anywhere else on the big, wide soundstage?
He doesn’t get the girl by the way.
So there’s that. Prowling,
maybe not a recommendable strategy.
Peace Came Upon Me
from “The Air that I Breathe,” The Hollies
(April 9, 2022)
Quite a statement, this one.
As if you wouldn’t need water
or presumably protein.
I guess that’s why
we have the qualifier.
When I was young
I misheard the word
as in summertime all I need
is oxygen and love.
But in the winter
I would also need a coat.
But if we give the sentiment the benefit
of the doubt, yes, love can keep us going;
making love can keep us going
like a galaxy running on blood and breath.
The inhale and exhale of the song
is very convincing.
And even in the middle of the 1970s,
I knew this song was saying something true.
And that I would someday feel
like the white, floating dandelions feel
when their seeds catch the sleepy air
above a culmination.
Smoke Goes By
from “Unchained Melody,” The Righteous Brothers
(April 10, 2022)
Unchained waltz of violins, unbound,
without bounds like an eddy of smoke.
The movie stars of the 1940s and 50s
looking voluptuous with their cigarettes
and all the Bull Durhams of the mythical West.
My grandmother held hers up in the air
like a grande dame. My mother’s voice
deepened over time like a monument
in the smoky haze.
Eddies flowed out of the station wagon,
out to the sea while my mother
flipped down the mirror under the sun-visor
and put on her red lipstick
and my father rolled the car back
into time itself. The end points of red
burning in the dark by the bed,
the thousands of cigarettes
that undoubtedly brought me into being.
The smoking face of Ricardo Montalban,
his cheeks sucking in the smoke and fire
before dancing the Danza de los Diablos,
inhaling the air and sweat
of the incomparable Cyd Charisse.
My great-grandfather rolled his own
out on the high plains; my father
keeps the man’s tobacco bag
on his dresser all these years,
one of his few prized things,
while my mother sits in a rocking chair
and spits into a jar. Yes, we are still weak
before the power of the glowing firefly,
the flickering glow of your embers
that, even now, manage to make
my own chest burn.
Spit in a jar turns yellow
and hard while the smoke trail
eddies into the quandary
of your darling
But You Can Say
from “Baby, Can I Hold You Tonight,” Tracy Chapman
(April 11, 2022)
The hurdle of the said
meets us where we are,
a simplicity that betrays
something very tangled.
We are full to the brink
with the right words
and the wrong words
that float through the days,
years heavier than words.
All that you can’t say
or ask but settle into the soft
silent swarm of nothing
and nowhere and nobody.
Nothing ever said,
stated, insisted or defended.
And what if we both said that?
The French I Took
from “(What a) Wonderful World,” Sam Cooke
(April 12, 2022)
So this is the story of a boy I once liked in high school
and how I was invisible in the eyes of this curly-headed kid.
One day after Algebra, toward which I was working towards a D,
I spied his sweet name on the honor roll posted in the library.
It was then I had the dumbest idea I’ve probably ever had in my entire life,
(and that is saying something): he must like smart girls.
Anyway, I totally overshot the situation and within a year ended up
in the National Honor Society, surpassing the grade point average
of my two brothers who took things like “trig” and “calc.”
My parents understandably thought ‘what’s wrong with our dumb kid?’
(I was the one who couldn’t figure out a bicycle.)
But a funny thing happened while I was trying to Hermione my way
into someone’s hard heart. I got accidentally interested
in biology and geometry while laying on my bedroom floor
in front of after-school, black-and-white television,
diagraming sentences on a Molly-Ringwald-pink carpet.
It was like falling through quicksand into another universe.
And I know a lot more now except what happened to that curly-headed kid
or how smart he really was or who he was trying to impress
just to get a kiss.
Me Lo Ha Dicho el Viento
from “Eras Para Mi,” Julietta Venegas
(April 13, 2022)
This Venegas confidence is something to see,
a street strut a little short of bravado.
I don’t have this. This is something I do not have.
I’m a careful stepper and I look to see where I go.
But Venegas has a stride that’s sure,
even backwards. Which is why I love her.
I’m not at all a person who is sure.
I don’t sport a knowing look back,
a nonchalant flip of the hair,
the calculated placement of the shoulder strap.
I don’t step forward with such bemused certainty
to tell you a truth: that this is how it is;
I don’t even have to do anything,
so sure this thing is. It’s like the weather,
just is, or as the sun continues to be.
And a gang of dancers is so hard to refute,
social influence in the meatspace.
The street vendor, is he for her?
Or is it possible she’s talking to me?
That I am for Venegas. Asombroso!
But then she’s getting her testimony from the wind;
¿deberías confiar en el viento?
What has the wind done for me
besides pushing me forward
or teasing my hair?
Hmm, I should reconsider that.
Maybe I am the tie-sporting worker-bee
whom she plucks the brim of that cap
while she’s gathering us up into veneration
of convinced side-walkers who believe
you are for me. And for three minutes
and five seconds I can be sure.
In Each Passing Year There Will Be
from “Follow You Follow Me,” Genesis
(April 14, 2022)
I thought we had left Genesis in the past,
presumably where it belongs,
back where everything began
with me singing through the hallways
of early romance, twirling in circles
around an adolescent bedroom,
heart whirling like a leaf.
But I see this one has indeed followed me
like a remastered shadow
or a goddam pixie.
A perfectly good song was booted for this day.
A poem that was here is no longer here.
I’m mourning that I’ve changed the plan so far into it.
This worries me.
I worry someday I will look back and regret these decisions.
I worry someday I will look back and regret my weaknesses.
I worry that twirling, leafy girl is an idiot.
But the little melody will not whirl itself away;
it just digs in
like a happy little resignation.
And quite possibly there is ever only one decision
that really matters
and when one of them keeps coming back to you
maybe just best to let it be.
Four, Three, Two
from “Cologne,” Ben Folds
(April 15, 2022)
Coming to a frightening end
is implicit in the first few notes
of any beginning.
The obscure everyday is inherit
in any moment of relevance.
The piano sounds pleasant
but it is a weighty monster
for any man to wrestle with.
The beginning and the end sound the same.
My mother, strictly counting to ten,
never got to one.
The three of us were all afraid of one
and what doomsday
would befall us at nothing.
In every countdown
there is a stopwatch.
In every ceiling we come to
an infinite sky of blue above.
Amid all the dreadful motions
to let go if you will let go,
we divert and distract.
We obscure and everyday.
Quite the Way You Do
from “Nobody Does It Better,” Carly Simon from the movie The Spy Who Loved Me
(April 16, 2022)
I like to imagine Marvin Hamlisch
and Carole Bayer Sager
hammering out this sentiment
in some time-lost piano-bar
trying to get the Bond-girl point of view.
The mountain-top hyperbole,
we can let stand, the smooth-skate
pirouette sound some of us love,
the big finish.
There are James Bonds of this world
in every specialization
and ain’t it the truth sometimes:
there’s some kind of magic at play;
the spies in heaven
must be up to something.
Katharine Hepburn once said,
“there are so few people to love;”
the rating scales tip unfairly
and the debonair walk by like 007 credits.
Not even half as good.
Not even half!
Not even up to half!
(That’s a real horse out in front
The sawing violins, Simon’s sincere and smirky delivery,
the dramatic horns signifying high achievement
in the erotic enterprise.
Or am I projecting my feelings onto this song?
Is this all just projection on my part?
A Poem About Place
from “Home,” Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
(April 17, 2022)
Chocolate candy, Jesus Christ,
on-the-fence and overpriced.
The places I have lived:
the moats and boats,
outskirts and yurts,
grace and goodnight sacrifice.
There is no hardship exodus,
no steamship trudging over
Herzog's little hill,
country is easy as a string
between you and me.
All the states I have lived in,
cities I have navigated,
royal pumpkins confiscated.
Nation, notion, routes and rooms,
castle, shack and inside track.
Countryside. Closet. Canopy.
Little story, my friend Julie’s mother
used to love Tom Jones
and they would go to his shows together.
After her mother died, Julie invited me
to see a show in Connecticut.
Some kind of outdoor wine and cheese thing.
I had no burning desire to see Tom Jones
but I went along, mostly for the wine and cheese.
Ok, the cheese.
So sooner or later we had been to something like eight Tom Jones shows.
I mean, in honor of her mother, right?
Years later when I met my husband
I asked him if had ever been to a Tom Jones show.
He said yes, he had. And quite remarkably
he added he had never been to a show
in his life, before or since,
where when he went to visit the men’s bathroom
it was deathly quiet and none of the men
would make eye contact with anybody else.
Turn Some Pages
from “Roll with the Changes,” REO Speedwagon
(April 19, 2022)
This was the sound I heard roaring out of my brothers' two bedrooms
during the early 1980s, guitar-strewn and caught up in a fist.
In France, they asked Randy about this new band ‘Rio Speedwagon’
and when he returned to America he had Soft Cell’s 45-record
“Tainted Love” with “Where Did Our Love Go” a full year before
our radio stations did, which I thought was a pretty fair trade.
Which says a lot about me and my armor of music,
locating our identities therein and the idea of subjectivity itself.
I think when we are different in some way, even when
this causes us suffering, we protect it like it’s a life force
and anyone seeming to change us feels like a threat.
But it’s not unlike the full cup/empty cup on the table parable.
If I could bargain at the door of these boys and say
I can see the meaning of these sounds in you, in other words
if the same old story no longer serves us, here at the break
we are on the brink of, maybe there’s time to roll in
with the desert and the sun shower, like a single note
letting itself blur into the sum of a fierce riff.
You Say This Guy
from “This Guy’s in Love with You,” Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
(April 20, 2022)
I’m imagining orange wallpaper here
for some reason.
Lava lamps and a shag rug.
While I was writing this
I actually did a Google search
for “60s love pad furniture.”
Don’t do the search.
Trust me—it’s all style
and no function.
But here’s a little secret
about Generation X
and our proclivity for hip-kitsch
and ironic distancing,
our feigning aloofness
in the face of whatever it is.
Here's the thing about Generation X—
we’re full of shit.
We kind of like it
or we wouldn’t bother with it.
from “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” Frida Boccara
(April 21, 2022)
Many languages, many versions
of deprivation and suffering:
Jacques Brel’s original reveal,
Camille O’Sullivan’s cabaret,
Nina Simone’s recital,
Dalida’s Italian. The list is long
and they all make different promises
and heroic beseechings.
For some the sun goes away
and the birds.
For some there are pearls of rain
and every kind of weather
just enough love to hold in your hand,
no more, no less.
French and Italian kings are mourned
for their disadvantaged living and dying,
Proust’s temps perdu.
Some versions ask us to tell them
what we did not get
that we still want.
If I could add anything to this
well-trod place, it would be to say
that breaking apart is an enormous swell
you either survive or fail,
a shambles of a shipwreck
that feels as much like fear as of loss.
Cowardice and humiliation
in 28 languages to give you a taste
of the human heart in crisis.
We are still trying to prove
there is poetry after devastation;
but maybe that’s all poetry is.
You Know It Makes Me Feel Good
from “I Love a Rainy Night,” Eddie Rabbit
(April 22, 2022)
Growing up, this was in a list of songs
I could do without, like somewhat aggressively—
also included in a somewhat shorter list
of songs I have come around to.
And no, not because I suddenly love a rainy night.
I have always been extremely fond
of a melodramatic nighttime weather.
Maybe it was clap-snaps, the ooohs,
the song’s utter lack of consequence.
I blame Eddie Rabbit.
And why the about-face?
I don’t know the answer to this either.
Presumably the same supposed dearth of consequence;
the, in fact, casual enthusiasm about rain;
or that it sounds like a rain dance for gringos.
But I think it’s more so that little Easter egg
hidden in the coda
in this song ostensibly about rain,
a song I suspect is all disguise and folderol
in which to say something of some consequence.
A Lot to Swallow
from “I Don’t Want to Change You,” Damien Rice
(April 23, 2022)
A few months ago,
my YouTube mix said this to me:
will like this video.”
And you know what?
YouTube wasn’t wrong.
The is a whole ordeal.
The video even re-enacts
His face is the bedraggled blue fish
that sometimes feels like what this is,
Wordsworth’s dark lake at night
if that lake were in Iceland
and I was backed-up
against the end
of a dock over a bridge
and long sunk,
as if I were out on a limb,
out into something
cold and rough,
a reverse so uncanny and contorted
the falling water rises again.
The grievous offering
to calibrate it; could I calibrate it?
If the reverse was true
about everything you are thinking,
even about doom itself;
what would that look like?
Nine Times Out of Ten
from “Tonight,” Elton John with The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
(April 24, 2022)
What if one night was a lifetime?
And closing curtains was figurative?
We’re getting much older must faster these days.
And I’m thinking ahead to the morning.
How much time, do you think, until we go to sleep?
And what will our dreams be?
What will we remember
or will forgetting be a relief?
What tomorrow can I place in your hands
like a compromise?
We Want Everyone
from “No One Is to Blame,” Howard Jones
(April 25, 2022)
Many evenings in high school,
Paul and Lisa would come over
and we would watch MTV in my bedroom
all night and into the early hours
of 1980s mornings.
Each of us were loitering for those
videos we liked. Paul was teasing up
his blonde hair like Tom Bailey,
scouting the latest Thompson Twins look.
Lisa liked Howard Jones, no slouch
in hair-heights himself.
Judging by this, I’m guessing my people
were longing for pastel color and cheer.
And this song was downright gloomy
coming from a synth-pop act.
During our senior year,
this song often came up on the radio
while I drove Nathleen home
in a little blue Chevette
so she wouldn’t have to take the bus.
Nathleen was a serious girl.
She had no use for pop music
or boys or video slumber parties
or high school silliness.
She did not tease her hair up
or buy abstract-expressionist,
or spandex or parachute pants
and did not share in my belief
this song was significant
in Howard Jones’ oeuvre.
And regrettably she did not live long enough
for me to be able to convince her of the fact today,
which I would totally do if I were able.
I’d call her up on the phone right now
and say, “Nathleen!
We’re old enough now;
I have proof!”
We’ve lived through
what we just can’t have,
we’ve survived cures without ease
and we have learned all the hidden costs
of either following or breaking any rule.
Nathleen wasn’t here long enough
to love and lose.
And I no longer keep up with Paul and Lisa,
but I don’t need to tell them.
When Becaud sings “et maintenant”
he means what happens now
for me, the bereft?
What am I to do now
with all the remaining days?
When Sonny & Cher sing
“What now my love?”
I imagine it even more resigned,
slightly bitter with a dash of the dismissive,
What now, love?
What other slings and arrows
have you for me
now that the sky
is where the sea should be?
What is left for us to do?
Whatever else can we whatever?
What else have you come to ask?
And all the empty mornings after that?
Frozen in Certain Circles
from “Missing You,” John Waite
(April 27, 2022)
I. Diana got cable TV before the rest of us.
Pretty soon she invited Lillian and me over
to watch a new station called MTV.
We moved the whole enterprise over to my house
starting somewhere in 1983. We had central air
and it was, most likely, a hot 1984 summer
when we first saw the "Missing You" video.
Both Diana, whose parents were Chinese,
and Lillian, whose mother was Japanese,
remarked, with no small measure of seriousness
for two 14-year-old girls, how grateful they felt
to see an Asian girl as the ingénue of a music video,
and the part of a fashion-model no less.
It impressed me because I had never considered before
how important it was to see someone who looks like you on TV.
But I wasn't a fan yet, so that's the last I thought about that.
II. Unrelated story— 20 years after that and about 18 years ago,
I was living in LA and wanted to see a John Waite charity show
nearby in Las Vegas. Christopher agreed to go with me
as he was a fan of the entire bill and someone
sentimentally fond of me being a fan
(and I lied and told him it was free).
Christopher suffered through the show
and months later we would learn he had needed a root canal.
It took him three concerts (the final being Prince)
for him to figure out what the issue was.
It was music that was making him suffer,
if you can believe it.
After the show, at a very large meet and greet,
Christopher only wanted to talk to me about the other band,
a band who had so solidly disappointed him,
(beyond the aforementioned dental sufferings),
because of their grandiose and clichéd affectations onstage.
(There was a cigarette dangling from the neck of a guitar
most egregiously.) And he couldn't stop going on about it,
which was very annoying because to this day
I always have trouble remembering the name of that band
or what famous song they did that he loved so much to begin with;
and every time I try to recall them I end up having to Google
random keywords for like five wasted minutes of my life,
(Gin Blossoms, "Hey Jealousy"), and I still maintain
they weren't even interesting enough to get upset about
(but you couldn't tell Christopher that.)
After that we went back to the Stratosphere,
(where we were staying without any irony), to watch tourists
hang off a rollercoaster over the roof and we both mused
about what bizarre situations people put themselves in
for a thrill. The next morning, we lay in our beds
and I remember feeling a vague kind of disappointment,
and feeling I couldn't really afford disappointment,
had no right to it. By then Christopher had forgotten
all about the Gin Blossoms and he regaled me for hours
with funny stories of the kinky want-ads
in the back of gay men's magazines.
We talked for hours in that room surrounded
of other hotel rooms.
Sometimes things happen and it's like ice crystals forming
out of the cold ether. And in the morning
the sun rises and the ice blooms with light
and it's beautiful all the same.
Systems of logic, rationalization, assumption bias, the missing story,
the missing point of view, the story that marks where the missing stories are.
Maybe all stories do this like narrative quantum mechanics.
Maybe this is all to say sometimes this story is meaningless to me
and sometimes it is not. Every story (or song for that matter)
has infinite meanings and possibilities
but you must live the story you're in.
Late that morning we checked out and drove home
and on the way back Christopher requested
we listen to Cher's album Stars which he had never heard
and I pointed out all the good parts and then he loved those parts too,
(which is something Christopher does).
Anyway, other things happened after that;
but that is another story.
from “Main Man,” Cher
(April 28, 2022)
This was not going to be a popular song.
This is not more 80s Cher bravado.
This is not a duet of iconic nostalgia.
And anyway, the love songs of Sonny & Cher
were never anybody’s but their own.
That does not mean this is not about Sonny
or Cher as any of our loves is just as much
about that first, big love.
It seems incredible now to know
Sonny once told Cher, his very own
Trilby O’Farrell, she was not talented
or pretty enough to go on without him.
It seems difficult to comprehend
how Sonny could believe
such an astounding theory.
In his defense, he was probably
aided and abetted by Cher herself
who allegedly may have believed
she did not exist beyond the gaze of Sonny.
After all, she once ascribed to him
everything and every role a man
could possibly play in a woman’s life,
even a sun to be worshipped.
And at the end of the day, we all believed
Sonny’s side of things, that it was Cher’s ambition,
not Sonny’s megalomania
or his infidelities.
And in our defense, we believed that
because it was simply much easier to believe.
But Cher did exist outside of Sonny’s eyes
and she did go on to love big again
which seems an extraordinary feat
when you consider Sonny
through the eyes of Cher.
Which means this other man,
this man from Queens,
than mustached porn star,
was pretty extraordinary, too.
And as Cher saunters around a house
she’s about to leave for good, she may be working
a new strategy to appear loose and strong
and tough and free and less worshipful
in an attempt to emancipate herself
from someone else’s opinion.
And so she says ‘main man’ as if to imply
there are others, but none of an exclusive status.
The man from Queens had no such baggage,
and can appear monogamous and only.
Because she is Cher, there are gypsies
and candles involved and the proclamations
of a contra alto. Even mother Georgia is indicated
as Queens has been brought into the fold,
to the side of the stage, to the front row,
to the bedroom.
Like all these explosive bombasts,
the bridge has nowhere higher to go.
Her feet touch the ground, homegrown,
front-porch belting with less camera flare.
Her And I is nonetheless big and anthemic
but also modest and trembling,
like Cher herself, a declaration.
A Merry Song
from “Very Good Advice,” Darlene Gillespie & the Camarata Orchestra from the movie Alice in Wonderland
(April 29, 2022)
So many songs I could have done
that I could not have done, songs given to me,
songs for rites of passage, songs too close
to a vein, a bonafide wonderland
of songs I keep like blue-glass figurines
in a corner cabinet, gifts in little
bow-wrapped boxes, souvenirs
or silver. If a disaster happens,
I will need to gather them all up.
This one is probably just a placeholder
for that fleet of songs and also
a song just for me and the me
I once was. To say I’m searching
for that little girl, to say I’m protective
of her is an understatement,
the girl who memorized this song
45 years ago with a flawed,
So this poem is a placeholder.
And this poem is for myself.
And this poem is to give Barry
Barry Manilow Standing at the Edge of Time
from “Could It Be Magic/Mandy,” The First Barry Manilow Special
and “Could It Be Magic,” Barry Manilow
(April 30, 2022)
There is a TV special clip I saw once
on a VHS cassette I long ago gave away.
I found it again recently looking for something else;
although even today it’s still hidden away on a DVD,
another outdated media where nobody will find it;
which always makes it hard for me
to make a case for Barry Manilow
when the most magical thing lives
on some media that requires a machine
very few of us even have anymore.
Bottom line, this thing is nowhere online
which means it may as well not even exist.
Which is a shame because this just might be
the most beautiful Barry Manilow thing
there ever was, even with its awkward guest star
working through beleaguered piano-bar repartee.
Barry starts to play his misunderstood solitude
slow and sincere in the woeful, club light
and then we slip into somewhere blue,
a stage where the spirit moves circa 1977,
double exposure, a blue backlight,
his blonde hair blowing
and his profile bobbing up and around
the amplification rig. We’re practically
up his nose in the close-up.
He bares his teeth at one point.
And when he sings certain notes,
his eyebrows go up over eyes
as blue as pure indigo.
He slides into Mandy with gulping breath,
so attentive to his piano
it’s like he’s making love to it.
The background sequins are sparkling
but not registering.
He is rocking and pounding the keys.
He is working hard.
We are back to Could It Be Magic then
and it’s like sorcery is heating up in his veins;
and then the girls step forward like ghosts.
At the end Barry is sweating and exhausted
and he rakes the keys once, twice, three times
like a man possessed and pulls out all the stops
for at last, at last like it’s Mount Fucking Everest.
When it’s over he stands up like a white, walking tree,
steps toward the edge of the crowd to accept the response
with a sudden, joyful, boyish grin.
It’s not perfect but you get the idea.
It’s not perfect but hopefully you can see it
I love this man. And it’s not about sex.
And it’s not about some romantic idea.
It’s about a body in this world.
And if anyone thinks Barry Manilow and Patrick Mahomes don't belong in the same sentence, they can go fuck themselves; and if anyone thinks this is about Miss Loneyhearts, go fuck yourself. Don’t even come at me with the f@g-hag word. You can just go fuck yourself.
But why am I saying fuck so many times?
Why does writing this make me so fucking angry?
I keep turning over drafts and the same thing happens.
I keep trying to back it out and the same thing happens.
I keep trying to tone it the fuck down.
Do I identify with some social vulnerability here?
Is this transference?
Am I just the angriest little Barry Manilow fan there ever was?
I’m going to have to fix this problem before we’re done.
Because WTF, I’m trying to make a coherent argument here
about Barry Manilow. I can’t slip into a nebulous feel.
And then I feel it come on again at the “Now…now…oh now”
and the “Come on! Come on!” and that little instigating elephant horn,
Barry’s own rising anger and fervor.
I realized it was the build of the song.
It was the song doing it.
It was the song.
To listen to the full NaPoWriMo 2022 mixtape: