Tag Archives: dance

In Monroe, Wisconsin

For J.P.

You were the best of us
Even when we were at our best
In that big drafty room
Wearing clothes owned by other people
The love – big love – poured all over us
When you opened the door that morning
We let it wash our souls like Lake Michigan water
You were generous and brave and honest

Later you raged against injustice
You lifted the heaviest of loads
You were the best of us
Only you knew how good we could be
And you never let us forget

In Kenosha

She has played piano here for a hundred years
Her bony fingers tripping lightly over the keys
Her clarion voice warbling songs of praise or sorrow

She is a slave to her own muscle memory these days
She says that it’s better than a slave to her practical memory

She has introduced the congregation to generations of babies
She has buried friends and loved ones and strangers
She will surely play here for another hundred years

Baseball in Gary, Indiana: June 2014

The cool breeze carries the nostalgia down the toll road
Over the skyway and into the once proud city

In the center of the old city is a shiny gem
In the center of the storied city is a diamond
It sparkles amidst the ruins of industry
The ruins of progress
The ruins of neglect

Throughout the waving sea of green seats
Signs of life are beginning to emerge

In a dance that was once uniquely American
Men of dubious haberdashery stretch their limbs
In a most reptilian fashion

Old men in Dickies wipe down each seat
With the same reverence they did 40 years ago
Wiping the seats at Wrigley or Comiskey
Finding loose change and pencil stubs on the littered concrete

When you love the game there is nothing you won’t do
To hear that singularly familiar sound of the cowhide against a wood bat

The smells deliver ghosts to the base paths
Where barrel-chested umpires bark their unforgiving calls

The smells deliver you to summer days sitting next to your father
Trying to figure out the score card between hot dogs and root beers

The smells deliver you to high school hooky and getting caught in the bleachers
Reaching for a home run while cameras snapped from around the park

Our game has traveled around the world but the soul and the history remains here
The soul and the history belong to the men who sacrifice for the chance to play

The men and boys who may never make the big dance
But will play until the last out of the last inning

On a Rooftop in Cicero

Because a lifetime ago something happened on a rooftop in Cicero
And no one ever really got the whole story
So we filled in the blanks ourselves
Ours was a much better story anyway
It was all about this guy one summer night on a rooftop in Cicero
His mother was taking him back to where he came from

When he saw her face in the drunken haze of the shameful moon
He wanted to push her off of that rooftop in Cicero
She moaned and reached for his throat as she opened her eyes
There is some truth here – some of this story is true
She looked in the eyes of her own son and didn’t know what to do

Now his oldest son looks just like his best friend
It is uncanny how much his kid looks like his oldest friend
No one here seems to want to talk out loud about it

The Sun Struggles Up

The most natural feeling as the sun struggles up is my bones grinding against yours
You are jarring and crushing and breaking your promises to the ghost of my childhood
Still a whispered breath trapped within your vena cava keeps me cold and you alive

The ribcage forged of your love protects the soul of my past and memories of my father
Washing the bony joints of our crippled fingers the dirty water runs down the baby’s face
The weak understand this is a baptism of desperation and consolation but not redemption

The charred remains of a dream I couldn’t afford and you couldn’t live without haunt us
Our bones have been put up for the first thaw and there’s something burning on the stove
We argue His presence in the room but we don’t deny it as we watch the sun struggle up

September 1, 2013

The stars came out tonight for you – they came out for you but you were gone
So I was left with my old cat and some cold beer and a pen and paper

I lost my glasses between the words and the beer
And could only think about how sad that someone else saw your stars
They were delicate like you – and quiet – and sweet – like you

It was the rain that ended the night – that turned off the music
It was a brief rain – but with lasting effect both cooling and sad
The pink clouds in the grey sky betrayed us but only after love and music
The sky crashed down and washed away the heat rising from our fingers
The sky crashed down and washed away the love rising in my throat

I saw the stars tonight – I saw each one and counted them
I drank another beer – then another and counted every star I could see
I rubbed the old cat behind her ears the way she likes me to
Then I wrote this down and I will never share it with you – but I wrote it for me

That has to be good enough – it is good enough for me and the stars
It’s good enough for the old cat and for anyone else who saw your stars but not you

Thursday Night in the Library on the Phone

The phone kept ringing
I knew I had dialed the wrong number
But I let it ring anyway

The voice that answered was a dead man’s voice
A friend of my father – recently deceased
He didn’t seem to mind the intrusion
But I hung up the phone nonetheless
Anxiously eyeing the redial button

Was the man of God back among us as promised
Or had the cancer really taken him away
I felt guilty for thinking about it
To ever have a thought like that at all
But I couldn’t help myself

When all around me got quiet
I redialed the phone using the right number
And when I got your machine I swallowed my voice
And left a message speaking as clearly as I could

In Guam

The silence slices through me like a whale-bone knife
Rendering my soul two parts that no longer make any sense
We didn’t choose this – but this is what we are now
I can hear your voice like a hushed whisper across the beach in February
I can feel your touch but it is only a memory – a dream that is long over

The sadness brushes up against me like an old lady trying to get her pills
My body is jostled without humor or warmth against my soul’s will
We didn’t ask for the bridge that doesn’t quite span our love
You can feel my love rising up around you like a warm wet flame
You can hear me sing love songs of other places and other times

May 19, 2010: After Mixtape

For the Butterfly

Before rum turns to beer and that I trip on a tear in my heart – or my shoe or a thought
About nights like tonight when there’s soul in the fight and the love in the drink that I bought

So I sip and I trip and I laugh at the jokes that fly by on untenable wings
They thrust and they parry and the liquor will carry them into this cool night in spring

Will you write words tonight that you hope will ignite the next troupe of young dreamers you meet?
Will you crawl into bed – words still trapped in your head – while you typer stares back in defeat?

Somewhere at the crossroads of William and Shel
I find that my words have all aimed me toward hell
But if they can get me one more minute with you
I’d gladly consume them and that heart and that shoe

We try to be clever – whenever – we endeavor to put all these thoughts on a page
But it’s tends to be liquor – a little bit quicker – that now has me showing my age

So I’ll say good night to the slow fading light as I wait for my old phone to ring
Tomorrow will be here – but wait just one more beer – and then one more minute to sing…

May 19, 2010
2 a.m.

E.’s First Piece

Miles Davis and an ice cold Old Style and a promise that you are not bound to keep
But words that resonate in your ear when you held her under the sweet moonlight
You were played – she played you – but you won and when you win it tastes better

Sure she let you win – that was her plan – it wasn’t going to be easy but there it is
So you retire to the writing garret and you pull out Miles because no one else gets it
No one else gets that you can win even when you are just learning the rules to the game

You grab a cold one because the heat is emanating from your shoulders and your heart
The world spins by you – as it is wont to do on these air-conditioned early summer nights
It spun fast when you were together – slower later – but soon it won’t matter – will it?