Descending Blues Man

he was descending through the bottle
forgetting why he no longer could remember
he made some lyrics that he sang off key
and he sang them to all of his early selves

the guitar that he imagined he was playing
hit the chords that early mornings made him weep
and he took that for a sign he was still human
or might of been or probably was that day

that he made the choice or did not, it makes no mind,
when he finally saw the end game
when he finally saw the end game
and realised that he had not been chosen

he’d not been chosen first and he’d not been chosen last
for the whirling pickup game of active life
and he remembered and forgot again he’d been that man
who could have done that choosing and he had failed.

Bar San Francisco

The parrot, green except for where it moults,
butts beak against the barmaid’s well formed back
as she tots another tab up for the dolts
who line the zinc-topped bar while she leans slack
against the register. The parrot rolls
his eyes and lifts his shoulders, which I ape
while Caroline ignores us both and strolls
to Captain Hook who mouths some jape
about ‘the thrill is gone,’ not saying whose.
The parrot says it must be Robert Cray.
I cannot care and let the lady choose
the next song but she answers ‘No lo sé
and Pink Floyd hammers more bricks in the wall
and the night comes down and finds me glad to fall.

The late sun makes the whiter people sick
and tour groups shelter in the noisy bar
appalled, enthralled by Caroline, her slick
appearance, skin — the limbic way ‘ajar’
amounts to ‘making way’ so near her blouse
when she and the green parrot dip for drinks.
The uncaged parrot’s ancient pupils house
an admiration an old tourist thinks
no animal should have for Caroline
but she leans forward and we punters smile,
me and the parrot, and the evening’s fine.
The tourists take their bus another mile
and the green bird and the lady ladle beer
into my glass like it required more cheer.

Bar music really underscores alone
and lounges full of losers don’t add up
to more than busy signals on a phone,
to more than travelling salesmen who come sup
on distant dreams, expense accounts and time
like they’re not losing hair, waistlines, and hope.
Turn up the music, Caroline, and rhyme
what you believe the words must be, and grope
for notes you know but when you’re dressed can’t reach.
The parrots, watching, goes back in his cage
as we ignore the lessons he can teach
and I ask you to dance, and primal rage
propels us and our dreams across the floor
until the music stops, us at the door.

I like me in the mirror of this bar,
dark glasses, tanned, the parrot taking note.
I flash keys from a newly stolen car
and think that any day now I’ll emote.
The rock ban pushes for a Beach Boy beat
and two girls dance together, and a man
as old as both their fathers, kind of neat,
attempts to cut in, doesn’t understand.
And She turns up the volume, and the bird,
the ancient parrot, shows the secret red
beneath his green and clipped wings while absurd
bus tourists, like they mattered, jump and shed
their inhibitions, grin and try to dance
while I and my reflection hold our trance.

(published in November 2001 issue of MÖBIUS)

Words to a Mood

Rolling it is now, and that is so nice,
think back on your first home; sunshine and rice.
Crouched in the shade gloom just out of the heat,
watermelon sliced red, salt on the sweet.

Chapped lips in winter, coal dust and ice,
bitter smiles cracking, slow bleeding hot spice.
The crunching of small bones, owls dining on mice,
the deaths of our mammas, those debts we pay twice.

Sex in a hammock, fights on the ground.
Thankful hosannas – palm sundaes abound.
Where is it all going? Where haven’t we been?
Before the song dwindles, Son, sing it again.

Sounded good (to me ) a few years ago when sung and played (impromptu) at Amsterdam’s Bavaria Hoek by Son McGauley, blues singer and piano, and David Brown, clarinet.

Won with Music

Weepy’s good. It is.
Cries rinse regrets away
and drown them in the sound
of Chuck’s ‘Deep Feeling’ blues
while friends from school days play
with might-have-been’s and wont-be’s
until the landlord’s cry
of ‘Time’ wakes them to lives
they really had and have
and the blues are only blues
and no need to be sad.

Chuck Berry playing his ‘Deep Feeling’ can be heard here:

And here, perhaps even more appropriately for this poem, is the same song with a video of old 45-rpm record playing tinnily and with scratches: