Friday nights are good nights for poetry, so I will post some new poems that Perry Nicholas has sent me. I wonder how the weather is in upstate New York!
The picture above is of Perry's friend, folksinger Vance Gilbert (b. 1958).
HEARING VANCE GILBERT SING
More than an angel sings,
leaning back his gray head,
filling his chest like a giant balloon,
he exhales onto the unfamiliar moon.
And again, more than an angel sings.
The lines melt from his face,
pounds from his frame, his breathing
circular, warming with ethereal effort.
When you close your eyes,
choose to join him in the clouds,
you’re surprised at how much you trust
this guardian to accompany you home,
lead you to a place where grace leaps
and anger at your neighbor disappears.
To a place where chalking children
affirm all your motives, and more
than a mere mortal troubadour sings.
It's not too late to write a poem inspired by Randy Newman (b. 1943):
A GODLY SONNET
That’s why I love mankind (you really need me)—Randy Newman
Like God, I’m unreliable.
You might only expect me to show
on days of my choice or times
when I need to practice my unique skills
of control and ambiguous reminders.
I want you to look for me and wonder.
Like God, I’ll be there when I get there,
appear self-centered and aloof,
a man in the moon with attitude.
I’ll offer you trust when we’re insecure,
faith when we’re at our sorriest.
Palms joining both of our prayers.
And like a god, I need you to believe in me
unless it’s too late for us to change.
Let's turn to music written in the 1950s.
CRY ME A RIVER
Remember? I remember all that you said.
You told me love was too plebian,
told me you were through with me an…
Even though we were travelling together,
we were separated on the flight home,
ended up sitting half an airplane away, still angry.
It might as well have been a mile of black sky.
I located the clip on the back of your hair,
but you couldn’t spot me at all over your shoulder.
We panicked, then laughed when we told
each other later of a similar thought:
what if this plane went down, and we perished
at odds, you dodging a puking baby, me
holding onto an old man gabbing grammar?
I’d reach for you mouthing our sad song in slow motion.
Hands extended across the seats, our love
falling hard into a river, a divided descent.
THE TRUTH IS
You know I’ll love you til the moon’s upside down.
Why try to change me now?
I find myself wishing I might wake up
and find this all a horrible dream.
If Dylan can be reborn, why can’t I?
I find myself wishing I wasn’t part man,
part machine, part lover, voyeur,
a boy stuck in the mire of a nightmare.
Tone most important to me, more so
than the terrible scratch of a damaged voice,
the possibility of no more kisses.
Have you ever been bogged down
by weighty dreams choosing to appear
only moments before you awaken?
Truth is I’ve broken my own poetic rules,
find myself wishing pieces of us still true.
Let's start with Vance Gilbert's "Unfamiliar Moon": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y91VQkffFeg
I saw that he had been a jazz singer, so I was looking for some older recordings of his. Instead, I found his 2015 version of "The Nearness of You": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLzXb5QTuGA
Randy Newman is known for his satire and his songs in children's movies, but he also wrote more mainstream songs covered by artists such as Blood, Sweat, and Tears and Dusty Springfield. "I Don't Want to Hear It Anymore" is one of my favorite songs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drGEBY59iGo
So is "Just One Smile": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J55WDyQ2KB0
The picture is smeary black and white, but the sound is great on Julie London's "Cry Me a River": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXg6UB9Qk0o