Carol Frome

Electric Heaven

 

Take the whole damn town by surprise—
make like Lady Godiva on a rooftop—
maybe atop that brick building across the street,
three stories high, pediments over the symmetrical windows.
Look how they all point up,
raised like eyebrows, chanting look there!
Or do what that roof-top rock and roll band did,
sneaking up on everyone, arranging the drums
quietly, tuning the guitars quickly,
before anyone knows what’s going on–
and then you could let it begin:
the lead starts riffing quietly—
so you’d hardly know—
but he asserts himself, inching toward the edge
until the music, insistent now, slips over,
right off the deep end
some guy says.

And people with lunch pails and shopping bags notice.
They look up from their errands
and wonder, what’s that? At first they keep walking,
but then: when the second guitar layers in, and then the bass
starts obsessing, and the keyboard begins, by then,
all the passersby have paused from their business.
They’re shading their eyes, looking into the sun, looking
for the music, but of course, no one can see music.
All they see is the silhouette of some crazy
standing on the edge of a precipice–
but someone says, they’re there alright
and everyone knows he’s right,
because they feel the music bouncing like sonar
into their heads
and into their billowing lungs
which fill with more air than they ever have before–
and into their knees
which unlock and begin to flicker with movement.
Then their feet will begin by the heels,
elevate from the ground,
straining toward the music which pulls them
by eccentric guitar strings and the stomping drum
toward some weird electric heaven.
And for once, even the cars and trucks and taxis
have stopped their wheeling around. Yes.
There’s a guy with a guitar on the edge of that roof!
And their drivers will hatch from the steel cocoons
that protect them and that would otherwise
be shifting their bodies, all those bodies
with heavy feet and clogged lungs and cloaked hearts
always obsessing, toward their routine destinations.
 


 Ride, Sally

 

I should be making the deposit,
there’s the taxes to think about,
and the bank account
is empty again—oh,
and there’s the work for The College,
“The Obligation”, they call it,
which has to be worked off, counting
beans, playing comma cop, all the cliches
of a hard-working,
contractually unpaid for life.
But at the moment, I’m not,
I’m not going to do it.
I’m listening to AM radio,
Ride Sally, Ride
and dancing and singing–
most unseemly acts
for a woman my age, I know–
I know I know
but I know of no heart
that’s made of ice.

It sucks,
not to be middle-aged,
only to look that way.
So much free expression, lost—
my hands that must hide their desire
to lift the hair from the nape of my neck–
or expressed in feeble smiles
and mother’s milk wasted–
no one notices.
This face has grown invisible.
And respect? Forget it.

Yesterday when the fat English Major insisted
with all the bulk of his six-foot-four authority,
the poem had to be read his fat befuddled way,
he being the department chair’s buddy and all
and having been told not to worry–
she’s not a real member of the faculty,
and warning me
I will surely notice if he gets angry,
I the simple-minded poet,
I wanted to say
Well, just fuck it, buddy. Fuck that,
There’s more to this than you think, buddy.
And to his friend, the Women’s Studies major,
who wields her abstracted ignorance
like a policeman’s icy baton–ah well–

I didn’t,
but today it hit me like a hangover, I wish I had.
What greater gift than irreverence—

Like, who cares? Screw it. Ride, Sally, ride.


Requiem for a Black Dog

 

The person living this life is not me.

The field with its birds and tall grasses
does not wait for me.

The town with its people and houses
does not wait for me.

Here, where the road splits and passes
into the fields or into town,
my throat seizes in knots,
and language eludes me.
My tongue twitches on empty air
until my senses let go, as leaves in the wind.
Here, the heart is a slow drip. It  wonders,
What next? What next?

In the field, the blue-tentacled flowers
bloom like bruises. Transplanted, they die.
My black dog burrows the grasses, sniffing for carrion.

The heart is a slow drip.
What next? What next?

In some countries, they eat dog.
Small black dogs, they say, are best.
Who am I to judge?
Who am I not to judge?
I am a poet, fading away.

Only the poem waits for me. Listens for me.
For my tongue, which twitches
on the empty air. My body
flails in the wind. The person living this life
is not me. Who am I to judge? Who am I not?

The heart is a slow drip.
What next? What next?
The poem waits and waits.

 


Formerly from the Adirondack region of New York State, Carol Frome lives in South Carolina, where she tutors English. Her work has appeared in many literary magazines and journals, including Nimrod, Colorado Review, Northwest Review and others. She is also a recipient of a Discovery/The Nation Award. Late next year, her book, Lives & Mortalities, is forthcoming from WordTech Communications’ CW imprint.

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