A Phoenix Blue

How many times we have
                      risen
from the ashes
of some ruined
               dream
of some broken
               promise
of some word
            unspoken
some deed
         undone.

How many.

If I could
          draw
with other than the
words that so often fail me,
If I could
          paint
with other than the
ink that bleeds even here, even
                               now,
I would
       paint
            Her.

I would paint
             The Phoenix
Blue
that is
       Us.

Her wings are
             indigo
lemniscates.

Without beginning
without ending
they flow,
vast and heavy
              yet
light and clear,
from the steady cerulean
flame
that is her body.

Compact and strong
that body is,
diamond hard
             yet
downy soft,
Newborn
Everlasting.

Its supple spine
                extends
to a tail of limitless
measure that
trembles and falls,
quavers and drops
in perfect time with
those phospherant wings
like the quavering vibrato
of a coloratura just before the
                                shattering.

But silent.
So silent.

Not a sound rises
from wing or tail
as she cuts the smoke-filled
air of her latest,
most pain-filled
                Death.

Until
       Until

High aloft she opens her mouth,
that crystal-sharp edge of her
                              luminous
face, that has
withheld
guarded
swallowed
so much
so many
for all these
             endless
lifetimes.

But no more.

No More.

For this time,
from these ashes,
she rises full-voiced
sure and strong and
                   pure.

And the song she sings
is Ours and Ours alone,
a deafening silence 
to all other ears.

To us she calls
as never before,
her throaty cry
breathless, broken,
ragged from the
raging flames, but
certain, strong, and
                    true.

A song
of roads not taken
of paths not chosen
of endings
          Overcome.

A song of Love.
A song of Life.
A song of Hope.

Our Song
        Forever
Thanks to
          You.

Breadcrumbs

feathered stars
scattered silver

veins
across an indogen
palantir

she speaks
much
these nights
of her father

recalls

the unbottomed
black
of his eyes
the catholic
cry
of his laughter

in these
reckonings
lie clues

this
the man
knows

he knows
yes
he knows
yet
still cannot
follow

for
the ways
her ways
so steep
so slick
so shallow

dissolve

at even the
fancy
of touch

so he
reads

and reads
and reads
again

watching the words
roll and fall

cold mercury
fading
from her lips

©sdrogers 25 february 2014

Lassitude

Everyone is
beautiful at
20

aren’t they?

The first time I heard her
she was already middle aged

she walked in on his back
standing dirty in the doorway
a limewhite aura fuzzled
pink around his head

I’d like to hear you sing

and so would you
you say
but you don’t know
you don’t know
you don’t know
do you

what I mean
when I say
H A R M O N Y

an intensely personal narrative

my life
my words

there is no
culling
one from the other

an intensely boring personal narrative

which I write
in funky impossible
jazz shapes
which no one can
manage
to format
CORRECT

ly

hangtime
hangtime
there is no more
hangtime

and perhaps
I
am to be the one
who calls drunk
and not
the receiver

never
the receiver

my tongue curls
at the high notes
my dimples sink
at the memory

at the memory
at the memory
at

all

the memories

the crinkly satin
of what I almost
did not wear,
the curl
of his fingers
deep inside

and all of it all of it all of it
R E A L

as real as Tony Bennet’s
toupee

©sdrogers 20 february 2014

Pretty Woman

Where is she

What happened
to her

I was there for
most of it

Wasn’t I?

We lived so
much of the same
life, coloured so
much by the same
love, stained so
much by the same
loss.

Didn’t we?

Or do I mis
remember

Do I see her
now
(sallow and swollen
sullen and sad)
Do I see her
now

only

as we all
see
one another;

Mirrors of disappointment
Reflections of woulda

shoulda

coulda

Shadows of what

might

have been.

Oh, but she
was

Bright

then!

Wasn’t she?

LizTaylorBeautiful
(adored and envied
longed for and lusted after)

Wasn’t she?

All I ever wanted to be.
Everything I never was.

Wasn’t she?
Wasn’t she?

Is she?

I don’t believe you,
you’re not the truth.
No one could look
as good as you…
                          Mercy!

Mercy, Sister
Mercy

 

©sdrogers 12 january 2013

30 Years

After decades of silence, I wrote the original version of this piece 3 or 4 years ago in response to a TIBU challenge.  Since then I return to it on this day, revising and polishing and, mostly, remembering.  I don’t think it will ever be “finished” — there’s always something missing — the man and his music, perhaps; perhaps the Baby who believed so blindly in so many things.   Read again if you like, if not, well, I certainly understand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It’s 8 December 1980.  I’m 19.  

I walk into the three bedroom apartment that I share off and on with four other people to find Shelly and Paula weeping uncontrollably on the living room floor while Pete and Kyle are cleaning weed on the coffee table behind them.  All of them are staring at our tiny thirteen inch black and white television;  I notice that someone has even wrapped fresh aluminum foil around the rabbit ears antenna.  None of this is all that strange (I’m a Drama Major) but there is something unusual in the girls’ keening and the guys’ almost frantic need to get high as soon as possible.

“What’s going on?”  

They stare up at me like they’ve never seen me before, then suddenly, Shelly, who’s been my roommate since Freshman year, jumps up from the floor and throws her arms around me.

“Oh, Baby,” she cries into my shoulder.   (They all call me “Baby”, but that’s another story.) “Oh, Baby, you don’t know!” 

Now, I’m scared.  This is not the usual break-up-homesick-flunking-chemistry-didn’t-get-the-part histrionics that I’m used to.  This is something bad.  I pull Shelly off me,  look her in the face and demand to know, “What is it?? What’s wrong??”

She looks at me, black tears running down her cheeks.  “John Lennon’s dead.  He’s been shot.”

For a minute, I stand there trying to remember who John Lennon is.  Is he one of Shelly’s many “friends”?  Someone older?  Younger?  Someone who transferred out?  Then it hits me.

“Lennon?”  I whisper.  “John Lennon?”  As though it might be some other Lennon that we could better afford to lose. 

Shelly nods.  “Come sit down with us,” she says, lowering herself back to the floor.

I’m frozen.  Completely unable to move.  The room has grown very large and very cold and yet the floor is rising up, threatening to hit me in the face.  I turn around and walk into my room, closing the door very quietly behind me.  Leaning against it, I hear Shelly say, “No, no — leave her alone.” 

I silently thank a God in whom I no longer quite believe for Shelly.

I sit down on the bed and try to get my head around what I’ve just been told.  I chide myself for not staying to see what was being said on television and for a moment, I think maybe Shelly was lying, maybe they were playing some kind of cruel trick on me.  But, they all know what a bad idea it would be to play a trick on me.  Besides, none of them would lie about something as horrible as this — who would?

Pulling my legs up under me, I try to imagine a world without John Lennon.   Try to imagine a world in which The Beatles really would never get back together.  I begin to shake.  No, it’s not possible.  John Lennon had been there my whole life — literally — and no one in my life had ever died unless they were old.  And he wasn’t old.  I mean, I know forty is old, but not that old.  

Sitting there, I suddenly realize that mine is the first generation to be born into a Beatles’d world.  They were not a “radical new sound” for us — they were the music playing when we were born and their songs had been the background for every major event in our lives.  How could anyone kill one of them?  Why?  And why John??  Paul, maybe — he’s such an ass — but John?  No way.  There’s just no way.

I pull off my coat and lay back on the bed.  From the front room, I hear the muted sounds of my friends and the television as the sweet smell of cannabis drifts under my door.  There’s a quiet knock.

“Come in.”

Shelly steps just over the threshold.  Her plain face is red and smudged black and she’s  holding up what I recognize as one of Pete’s finely rolled joints. 

“Want some?”

I sit up.  I nod.  She gives me a weak smile and motions with her head toward the front room.  I slide off the bed and follow.

Two joints later, I am possessed with the idea that we can’t just sit there alone, watching the television while the rest of the world mourns John Lennon.

“Come on,” I say, standing up and looking for my coat.  “Who’s got a car tonight?” 

Four blank, pin-eyed faces stare up at me.

“Come onnnnnnn.”  I pull at John who is the only one of us who ever reliably has a car.  Or a reliable car.  He shakes his head.

“No way, Baby.  No fuckin’ way.  Where the hell you wanna go anyhow?” He is trying  to uncurl my fingers from his shoulder.

I hit the top of his head.  “Didn’t you hear?  They just said that people are going to Morgan Park.  That everyone should get candles and go to Morgan Park — come ONNNNNNNNNNN.”

They all know it is easier to give in than to fight me, so everyone stumbles to their feet and after calling half a dozen people to find the location of Morgan Park (“Goddamn, Baby — it’s clear on the other side of town!), we all climb into Pete’s tiny white Toyota.

After a quick stop to grab candles, we make the drive in record time, the radio blaring Lennon tribute music all the way.  Morgan Park is filling up with people of all kinds, many crying, some wrapped in blankets against the December chill, most already holding lit candles.  We’re circling for a place to park when Pete makes a sudden, sharp right and says, “Yeah!  TV vultures!” and slides into half a parking space beside the Channel 10 van.

Scrambling out before anyone can stop us, we make our way to what looks to be the densest part of the crowd.  We light our candles and another joint and stand looking around.  Someone has blown up a face shot of Lennon from about the time the Beatles broke up — the famous one with the long hair and the little round glasses — and hung it from a tree.  Others are making their way to the photo to lay flowers and notes and albums, then returning to the crowd to stand.  Pretty soon, that’s what we’re all doing.  Just standing.  Standing and waiting.  Waiting for someone to speak, someone to explain, someone to make sense of this, someone to tell us what to do now.

But no one does.  It is strangely silent.  Weirdly silent for that many people.  Aside from whispers and the softened sounds of crying, the night air is empty.  I look around.  People are beginning to fall away from the edge of the crowd.  It looks as though even the TV people are about to give up.  It’s late, it’s cold and everyone is tired of waiting for what they don’t know to happen.

“No…” I think. 

And holding my candle tight, I begin to sing.

“Love… love… love.  Love… love… love.  Love… love…love…”

People turn around to look at me, but I don’t mind.  I never have.

“All you need is love.  All you need is love.  All you need is love, love, love.  Love is all you need.”

By the time I get to “Love is all you need”, my friends and the people around us have taken up the chorus.  The song grows from where we stand out to the edges of the crowd, stopping those headed for their cars.  Soon, a man’s voice, much stronger and better than mine, begins to sing Lennon’s  “Nothing you can do that can’t be done” and the rest of us fall into back up.  I close my eyes and play with the harmony, dropping down in my chest when the tears take me, flying up above when I can.  When I open my eyes, the crowd around me is beautiful — wet, candlelit faces are smiling and singing and swaying.  And in that moment, I think, “Ok.   Ok.  Maybe it will be alright.  Maybe we can be alright.  Maybe.  Maybe.”

~~~~~~

Ten years later, I will be standing in a tiny kitchen in a tiny house when I will get a telephone call from Pete.  I’ll have not talked to him in years.  I’ll have not seen Shelly since I was Maid of Honour at her wedding.  And two of the five of us will already be dead.  Pete will call to tell me that he’s just seen a Dallas-produced tribute to the 10th anniversary of Lennon’s death.

“And guess whose face they splashed up under the closing credits?” he’ll ask.

Elbow deep in cookie dough with my daughter on my hip, I will have no idea.

Pete will say, “You, Baby,” then laugh that laugh that tells me he’s not had a straight day in these ten years.  “YOU — You holding a candle and singing, ‘love is all you need’.  Fuck, Baby- we were YOUNG.”

I will try to laugh and after promising to keep in touch, I will hang up the phone and wonder if I should change my number.

I will sit down with my daughter and as she sucks sugar from my fingers, I will close my eyes against the sound of those voices, close my heart against the power of those memories, and it will be almost another twenty years before I meet any of them again.

© s rogers 8 december 2010