Memories of Music

Love the beginning of the word, she said.
And love the end of the word, she said, but
not as much.

Love the beginning of the phrase, she said,
and hold onto it until the end, then
let it go.

Love the beginning of the song, she said,
then back away, as if you changed your mind,
fickle, yes, like that.

Memories of a Hundred Dollar Bill

Not mine, but I can wish, eh? ;)

How peculiar, how odd are the things that
become bookends in time. Insubstantial
as a scent, color, flimsy as paper.

No cornerstone these, but yet they become
anchors of memory, bulwarks for the hard
decisions. Once I saw a grim plump man

drop a hundred dollar bill. When I tried
to give it back, he flinched, and rolled his eyes.
The third try, he took it, putting the bill

in his money clip, hitching up his pants
at the same time. Then he insisted on
buying me a fifty cent beer on tap

and sitting with me while I drank it all.
Every drop. No chitchat, no eye contact.
Twenty odd years later, walking the dog,

a young man strolled by the park, just about
the same age I’d been. He smiled. I waved back.
He started to walk towards me, his hand out,

some sort of paper in it. “No, thank you,”
I smiled. “No …” he began, then shook his head,
jogging towards me, hitching up his pants,

shoving his money clip in his pocket,
shoving a hundred dollar bill towards me.
Once, twice, … I take it as if by reflex,

asking him, “Why?” I really want to know.
He shrugs, dimples, and looks me in the eye.
“Just because,” he grins, waits expectantly.

I pause, then put my hands together, and bow.
“Thank you.” He bounces on his toes, happy.
I watch, baffled, as he strides down the street.

That was yesterday. Today, at the bank,
they gaped, “True story?!” “True story,” I said.
Three tests later, “Hunh, and the bill’s even real.”

NOTE: Yes, folk, I missed posting this on the right day. I was working on this poem, writing it for the 15th (ironically Tax Day), when my son became ill and I was unable to finish it and post it. So, this was written for the 15th, but posted on the 16th, and backdated. I cheated. I’ll try to write another poem so that NaPoWriMo doesn’t get off schedule. — pfa.

Memories of a Carnegie Library

I don’t really remember the outside
because I couldn’t wait to get inside.
I had to climb stairs to get there, so those
are crisp, but the bricks, bushes, pillars
are blurry & unfamiliar. Can’t say
if they were like other libraries.
I never looked up, but always forward.
Climbing the steps was like going to church.
The stairs outside: concrete, warm and gritty.
Open the first door, and it was dim and cool.
Dim, cool, and quiet as a sacred place.
Inside there were more stairs, and more before
large heavy doors in front of the long desk.
Children’s books to the right and back. Youth books
to the right, and right again. The rest were,
of course, for the grown ups, and not for us.
The stairs inside: marble, slippery, cool.
The outside edge of the inside stairs curled
around a column on each side, rounded
in a broad bottom step, where I’d hide
with ‘my’ books in the echoing chill, until
it was time to go home with my parents.
When I was old enough to walk there alone
I’d be at the library every day
there wasn’t school or church. That was summer.
Ten books a day. Ten books every day.
“You know,” the librarian chatted, “you don’t
need to bring them back the next day. You can
keep them long enough to read them.” I blinked.
“But,” I said, “I did. Read them.” She blinked. “Oh.”
Ten books a day. Ten books every day.
Until they ran out. That surprised them, too.
I don’t remember who took me by the hand
back to “Children’s,” trying to find something
I hadn’t read. I remember the books
on the low shelves: red and brown in worn cloth,
blue and green in crinkled plastic covers;
the picture books, the biographies, science,
history, fiction, … Large leathery chairs
in the corners of the room as we walked
around the entire wall. Short wooden stools,
a patch of carpet, large paned windows.
I looked up expectantly. “Are there more?”

Memories of Heat

Lungs, heavy with heat, labor.
The boundaries of the body
edge themselves with sweat, like lines
drawn on walls when no one looked,
salt graffiti spray-painted
at the hairline, around lips,
trickling below the belt, spine,
around wrists and cuffed ankles.

This is an aberration.
We were, we are, unprepared.
This intrusion of August
into April is not quite
comforting. Grass struggles thru
last year’s dead leaves, bulbs sprouting,
tulips not a handspan high
and spear-pointed with no blooms.

All things green try to catch up
with the heat, anxious as if
late for a midterm exam
taken the first week of class.
This is not a slow melting,
a bursting of what’s ready
and ripe. This is unsettling,
an unstable betrayal.

Memories of a Murderess

At the school cafeteria tables,
she sat beside me, chattering away,
a slender hummingbird singing fables
of hope, obliquely hinting that life may
or may not contain beatings, older men
who found her twelve-year-old frame attractive,
an anguished anger overwhelming when
she would shift from hope to hyperactive.
We didn’t really talk about this much.
I’d listen, afraid she’d startle and fly.
She’d take the prettiest paper to touch
and fold — cranes, butterflies — her shining eyes,
for just a moment, those of the child
she could have been, before she was reviled.

Memories of Rock and Roll

Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer in Helsinki 2008, by Ville Koivunen

Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer in Helsinki 2008, by Ville Koivunen

I walked past Gene Simmons, just yards away,
with him in full makeup. It was the band,
actually, leaning over the railing,
watching the stage, murmuring back and forth
about nothing that concerned me. I glanced
over because the makeup was so fab,

but really, what stuck in my mind wasn’t
KISS, but Focus, swimming in blazing lights,
fog machines spiraling colors upward,
voice and guitar punching notes like rivets.
On the highway, after, we debated
the singing, and I insisted (wrongly)

that there were four voices in that solo.
The black of the sky, gray of the asphalt,
stuttering of the lane lines. The silence
outside the car as huge as the crowd’s roar
minutes before, while inside, all our shouts,
giggles, and yawns echoed as if muted.

Memories of Last Words

“My hands are much warmer,
now I will sleep.”
Hours after La Bohème,
my eyes still sore.
“I just want to get home,”
came before the
fatal car accident.
“The babies, the babies,”
cried a friend with cancer.
Now, I can’t sing
“For where your treasure is
your heart shall lie”
without tears. Her treasure
was those babies.
Not everyone has fame,
but all who speak
have last words. “Grass, trees, leaves,”
said the dentist.