Hot beignet drops from shaking hand,
phosphorescent meteor of confectioners sugar
scatters sweetness to a silent Jackson Square.
The plump fried pastry sparks to life
upon splashdown in a Mississippi colored puddle,
succulent ripples breach the curb,
strut down the sidewalk, lap on doors,
then leap to the humid air,
to penetrate every lacy wrought iron balcony,
to enter the tall windows, the squat ones,
even the closed ones through air conditioner coils,
and rustle sheer faded curtains into a swinging rhythm.
Riverboat horn toots a bass line
walking that New Orleans funk into every parlor,
ceiling fans spin in syncopation,
sugar dust magic finds every snare,
tom-tom, bass drum, djembe, and conga,
and bends streetlights to the groove.
Trumpets fill themselves with urgent breath,
well-oiled trombones slide underneath,
clarinet keys snick awake to filigree atop,
while saxophones growl themselves into the batter,
guitar strings swirl against frets, banjo heads pulse with the drums,
and metal reeds bend deep within harmonica honeycombs.
From Canal Street to Frenchmen,
the entire Quarter is rocking this night song,
and only the deepest sleepers get a waft of this delight,
seasoned just to their taste –
sweet, hot, spicy, cool – swinging hard –
until the street cleaners suck it all back to silence,
punched into the dough of the city,
to later rise towards powdered stardust
of a finger
speeds hot lead
through skin and bone
to burst a heart
life oozing to gray
the burning ricochet
cuts us all down
mockeries of truth
what might have been
Evidence of playing in the Connecticut River on a July day, crossing the bridge from New Hampshire to Vermont
Consider July a smelling salt
to rouse your faint year
startled nostrils finally
snort in this year’s bouquet.
Ponder the steam of August
melting towards September,
yellow school bus dinosaurs
prowl the morning roads
to ingest reluctant morsels,
cool shoes and backpacks
the last whiff of freedom
down institutional hallways.
Daydream out windows
to speed the fall towards winter,
when freshness of balsam
collides with peppermint,
swiftly down to a new year
and another round.
Morning rung to attention by distant train horn
beckoning me like an iron bell to a churchgoer.
Ears pass the call inside, stomach rumbles
for new roads, nose hungry for scraping steel.
My feet’s rhythm quickens,
the louder tones now clear –
five penetrating notes stacked up
in extravagant harmony,
complete yet open, pleasing yet dissonant –
to send the question through flesh
to my itching bones,
Gulping the last of this town’s air,
I reach the platform before she stops,
perfume of steam, embrace of smoke
and glinting wheels capture my soul.
At the top of foot-polished steps
the conductor gives voice
to the now-silent whistle: “Where to?”
“How far West does she go?”
“Go to the next light and make a ubie,” our Philly bred waitress explained at the end of the fireworks dinner cruise celebrating my Dad’s 92nd birthday. It must have been after he and Olga danced the Cupid Shuffle that she added the extra endearing syllable to his name. Frank had never been called Frankie in all those years, yet his youthful dancing spirit captivated and inspired so many people around our table at the head of the disco dance floor. Guys and gals one third his age in shiny club attire, some in six inch heels, swarmed our table like bees to share his spark and sweetness.
“I want to be like you when I get old.”
“You give me hope for my future.”
They only see how he jokes around, dances in his limited way – no more spins – and his twinkling blue eyes. They don’t know that he can’t read signs anymore, macular degeneration leaving a void at the center of his visual world, that his hearing aids squeal more than help him understand you, that he spends ten agonizing minutes in the restroom inserting a catheter to urinate, that climbing steps is now slow and painful, that his vertigo keeps him rocking like this boat.
Up on deck he was like a kid watching the fireworks burst into colors in the sky behind the Ben Franklin Bridge, his favorites the loudest booms. He was disappointed the wind carried the gunpowder smell to the Jersey side. I marvel at the transfer of his World War II experiences into fireworks joy, despite his plane returning from missions with bullet holes, despite his old infantry unit taking 80% casualties, despite riding in a Jeep lighting incendiary bombs and tossing them along a grass runway somewhere in France to show a crippled bomber where to land on a dark night.
None of us will ever know how many times his appetite for new experiences has saved his life – and still fuels his daily passion, in all senses of the word. If he is suffering he sure does not show it and he absolutely does not let it erode his daily fun. Here’s a toast to Frank, I mean Frankie!
My mother at home in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania
Dust of the coal mines
on the window sill
lightened to gray
by a gentle snow,
our simple clapboard house
also freshened from within
by the exotic smell of oranges,
a seeming miracle
delivered only at the holidays
from some far off land,
an extravagant purchase
that triumphantly shouts
“Christmas” to us kids –
no coal in the stockings this year!
It has been over 20 years since I rehaired a violin bow. I guess that is really my first ‘retirement,” when I gleefully gave up a profession that demanded perfection beyond my mere mortal skills. Although over 3000 players were satisfied with my work, I always found flaw in each one!
So when a fellow Bulltown Strutter brought me his grandfather’s violin, I found myself offering to restore it and its bow so he could display it proudly on his wall. And because we Southerners have these nasty bugs that eat untended horsehair, I knew his bow would need to be haired with nylon hair. In effect, I came out of retirement to do this work, partly because his grand dad had really good taste in musical instruments, and partly because I could think of nobody else to do the job as I envisioned it – only repair and clean enough to preserve it so future generations can have a crack at playing it.
Talk about being resistant to going back down that path! The work on the violin went well, and I even enjoyed it, trying to imagine whether the music made with it was more fiddle tunes or Classical. But the bow! Unwilling to break open the scab of that wound, I procrastinated even as I re-gathered the tools I needed. As I fully committed to this, the Omega Rehair, I spent hours assembling the tools I needed, clearing a workbench, finding and re-installing the bow holder. And then it seemed another bunch of hours was spent walking around looking for this or that – essential tools for this next step.
Yet the stars were aligned – a supplier sent me a sample hank of the latest improved artificial bow hair, which I unbanded and hung on a nail, just like I first did in 1978 in downtown Chapel Hill. Both the wood and the metal parts of the bow cleaned up nicely, and taking it apart did not present any challenges I didn’t have a trick for! My last fetched item was white glue, good old Elmer’s, and I gently hammered in the spreader wedge and was finished! Stray hairs were dispatched by knife, since the usual method, an alcohol lamp, melted the hair! Rosin did indeed stick to this shiny hair, and it looked pretty nice.
Official Notice – if any of you out there need rehairing for display, you better contact me soon, while all tools are nearby. Who knows what I would say in another 20 years!
Last year I smiled at the honeybees
as they went about their work,
all buzz and hover
along a wall of sweetness.
This year I stare at lonely blossoms
on a silent sun strewn wall
and try to convince myself
that they will come back.
Oh for that Brindle coat and Mastiff jaws
so joyfully flinging a plush toy
left right left right fwapping herself so fast
I marveled at how this Boston Terrier
did not scramble her brain.
And now she’s gone of a brain tumor.
How much joy do I clench in my jaws
and shake myself silly, refusing to let go?
Lurking damages be damned!
Bella reflected our son for over ten years,
from excited adventurer ready for the road
to basking in a patch of sun on the floor.
So funny, so fun,
No more frantic scrambling underfoot
or balancing a toy on her head
or burrowing under the covers
to sleep with her favorite humans.
Ah, her wide welcome of a tongue
eager to lick you into a laughing tumble of love
until you just had to say stop – enough, enough.
Such a good dog, far beyond the cliché,
infiltrated deeply in our lives
and shook our hearts senseless with joy.
There is no love
there is only love
brain as cleaver
into scientific categories
I do not even sniff them
rule my world.
Denial is futile –
there is only love.