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QUINTESSENCE

Summer Thunderstorm

STAR DUST
That crooning they swooned for, all the moons in June
and sweet talk of broken hearts forever: the man
in his apartment hears buses hiss and roar
below his window, a television set next door,
but listens to Dorsey and Sinatra on the phonograph,
feels a quiet settle over his flesh, the laugh
of muted trumpets coming down soft as rain.

He could look for hours into the room's
empty spaces - the blind stares, his father calls them.
And he knows it is melancholy, a nameless
yearning not for his own youth, but for that famous
eon of is father's, a blind time
before one war or another, and all those fine
fine tunes that lull his now to dream

without sleep. He believes a song
is a dream, memory nothing but a long
lyric he'll never completely know.
He thinks of his parents, years ago,
huddled on the old Ford's hood, wrapped
in a woolen blanket and watching the lake water lap
the shore under star shine. On the radio a song

from Dorsey and Sinatra rang the perfect omen.
Tonight is what they could not know, when
he would ache with his nothing, grow still
below the weight of what is empty, all that any song will
do. Like the star beaming outward past its death,
the buses and the rain he loses track of,
the music comes and goes, and he remembers again.


- Robert Wrigley

My radio, which plays the public radio jazz station softly in my office as I write, just interrupted a lovely Paul Desmond piano riff with the blare of an emergency alert - a thunderstorm warning has been issued for the surrounding county. Surprised I get up from my chair and push back the billowy drape, peering up over the rooftops. A heavy, swollen, soot-gray cloud mass towers above the leafy trees. Where you might expect a breeze there is the ominous absence of one - as if the sky had sucked in its breath, holding, holding. Humidity, silting the air, grows palpable in the colorless heat. A thunderstorm is indeed imminent.

The poem I have just been reading by Robert Wrigley, on rain and soft nights, the heat of things anchored on nothingness, seems to have conjured the poem's own weather. Or perhaps the storms clouds writ their passing on the page in my hand. But somehow now I am thinking of melancholy...this poem is weighted at the bones with a strange, haunting, enveloping sense of the false present, the portent hollowness that is melancholy. The approaching storm seems to wrap its shoulders in the poem, dark with nameless yearning, the muted trumpets and the music on the radio, the beauty of empty star shine. Empty spaces - the blind stares, the poet writes. And the summer heat at last crushes in on itself and now falls in a soft rain on the leaves.

And I remember again, why I love summer.
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