For Brandt

I liked him immediately.                                

Refreshingly bombastic

In a world more and more inclined

To velleities, you always knew

                                    Where Brandt stood.

                                    That first time it seemed we were

                                    Picking up the thread of a conversation

                                    We’d been having our whole lives

                                    And couldn’t wait to continue;

                                    Midstream I felt I needed to say something

                                    If only to acknowledge I was listening

                                    But realized it wasn’t necessary

                                    That I was content to hear him out,

                                    That I enjoyed merely being in the same space as he,

                                    That though he knew many things I didn’t,

And we were complementary minds,

There was never any need to get in the last word,

Which was a blessing, because

I never said goodbye,

Knowing we’d pick right up where we let off 

When next we see each other.

First Snow / a poem by Tom Evans

When we were kids

We’d look out the window

When snow was forecast;

Fooled by the moonlight

We thought it was there

And sometimes it was

The next day, our winter

Clothes laid out on a chair

And hot cereal

For breakfast.

Listening to hear

If school was canceled,

We had to wait

Until the very end,

Until they got to

The Ws.

Either way it didn’t

Matter (except for

Having to wear leggings

To school), it was an

Adventure, it meant

Rough and tumble at

Recess, sledding when

We got home,

And hot chocolate after.

There used to be a

Little plow that came

Down our street with chains

On its wheels that

Plowed the sidewalks

Back when your taxes

Paid for something.

Now I tread up snow hills

Slide back down, and begin

Again, wondering

What’s on the other side,

Hoping it isn’t

That tree my brother

Veered into one time

While sledding down,

But just a straight

Untrammeled ride

To the bottom.

JANUARY IDYLL / a poem by Tom Evans

In this two-headed month

Look forward and behind

And see the land

Where the hills are kind

And sometimes end in houses;

One house in particular notice

Where love lives

With its two gardens

Vegetable and flower.

Here is a land to be explored,

Its forests are dark and dense

Except where spattered by drops of sunlight;

Here the end of all winding roads

May be found,

And ourselves if we wish.

New Poem for my stepgrandson

                                                            Luca At Two

                                                            Golden haired,

                                                            Serene or squalling,

                                                            Monarch of all

                                                            He surveys.

                                                            It was touch

                                                            And go at first –

                                                            A teary transfer

                                                            From grandparent

                                                            To grandparent –

                                                            Until he spotted

                                                            The garbage truck.

                                                            “Garbage truck,”

                                                            He said sagely

                                                            And soberly,

                                                            Pointing emphatically.

                                                            Sensing common ground,

                                                            We eagerly concurred,

                                                            “Garbage truck,

                                                            Of course,

                                                            It’s Monday!”

                                                            The ice had

                                                            Been broken,

                                                            Our day together

                                                            Could begin.

                                                            To be able

                                                            To make him

                                                            Smile, or even

                                                            Better, laugh,

                                                            Was a privilege that,

                                                            Once earned,

                                                            Made the day

                                                            Evanescent

                                                            Yet Essential.

Impromptu After Frost

America,

Land of opportunity:

Imagine the poor, the hungry, the hunted

Young and old

Trudging forever on foot,

No longer having a home

Or even a place to go to.

We used to be that place

Where, when you got here,

We had to take you in.

But we now espouse

A road less taken,

Choosing to love a wall

Instead.

Which, for them ,

(and us)

Will forever

Make all the difference.

60s Music / a poem in progress by Tom Evans

50’s music — straight standards with strings —

Sinatra Fatha’ Hines — my parents’ music

Schmaltzy corny square, any way you

Want to put it — understandable

After a Depression and war.

 

I was a captive audience,

Who, while hearing, wasn’t tuned in,

Much less turned on,

knowing there must be a better way.

 

And there was.

 

My music, when it finally arrived,

Meant freedom of a sort,

Which, while not total,

Took me to another place In time

Just in time,

A place from which I never came back.

 

It meant more to me, you see,

Being the soundtrack of my life,

And why I was so

Opinionated about it,

Perhaps to my detriment,

Eclipsing everything else as it did.

 

In fact, like Fiddler Jones,

To this day I’d drop everything

For even the briefest strain of

Music or lyric that caught my ear

Hoping it would last forever,

Knowing it wouldn’t.

 

A quick study, I almost instantly

Had the words of a new song by heart,

Except when I didn’t, some impossibly garbled

Beyond recognition.

(“Louie, Louie” being the most famous example)

 

With some songs it didn’t matter,

“A Whiter Shade of Pale” for instance,

Many of the words unintelligible,

Like the line I thought was

“As the metal tore his chest,”

Until looking it up recently

Found it was really

“As the miller told his tale,”

Which, while good to know, didn’t change a thing.

 

I decided I liked my way better,

The song being so ethereal,

Not meant to be construed but felt,

And so many memories attached

to my version.

 

There are the exceptions, some songs

You need to get the lyrics exactly right,

Fit them to the music to make it complete,

A song like “Dangling Conversation”

For example, or most of Dylan’s songs

(especially when covered by others and

you can actually understand them)

 

As with all good music It not only

Evokes your past, if you’re receptive

(Or high) enough it can take you right back

To where or when you heard a particular song,

Perhaps recapture the same feelings

You had whenever or wherever

You heard it, recovering

Your youth, if only in part.

 

Listening lying down, needle in groove,

Vinyl slightly warped, static and hum,

Stacked six records high,

Light some candles and incense,

Your magic carpet ride would begin.

 

It was going to be a while,

Might even make a day of it,

Nothing else, or better, to do

Nowhere to be,

It was a necessity,

And what kept me going.

 

Stoned, drunk, sober, tripping —

Each a vastly different experience

Requiring different music, if not bands –

Something mellow when stoned

(Though at that point

Almost anything will do) –

Jackson Browne, Byrds,

After the Gold Rush

Something loud when drunk –

Stones, Allman Brothers, Moby Grape –

Something trippy when tripping –

Dark Side of the Moon, anything Hendrix,

Sergeant Pepper

Everyone had their go to music.

 

The blues were an entirely

Different category:

Being Introduced to it Relatively late,

And then, by an English rock band

On the album English Rose,

With several authentic covers of

Elmore James tunes — also hearing

Slide guitar for the first time,

Which, to this day, is still my favorite style.

 

Definitely drinking music,

The blues didn’t really hit me until,

Well, I had the blues, which I

Didn’t realize until I heard the blues.

 

Whose Muddy Shoes, my first real blues album,

Played over and over, was all

I would ever need to get me through

The tough times — they understood, I didn’t

Need to say anything, it was as if I was

Talking to myself, and they to me.

 

Until I was turned on to

Mississippi John Hurt,

A completely different style

Bred on the Mississippi Delta,

Acoustic fingerstyle guitar,

Much more mellow than the

Urban blues, though at times even

Sadder because it was so wistful;

He was the ultimate raconteur –

Funny, sly, wise, spell binding,

One of his several (among countless

Others by others) versions of

“Stagger Lee” the best

I ever heard, talking for the

First several minutes, giving

The back story of Stagger Lee

And Billy DeLion, leading into

Masterful fingerpicking

And his rendition of the song;

In “Payday” and “Casey Jones”

He’d sing a line and then, seamlessly,

Would have his guitar sing the same one,

And I swear you couldn’t tell the difference.

“Rediscovered” nearly

Forty years later and trotted

Out on stage at the

Newport Folk Festival,

He brought down the house

With his performance,

Was signed to a record deal

And made several albums

Before he died a few years later,

And several more posthumously.

Better late than never, I suppose,

Though he was never one to be bitter.

 

Everyone had their own first concert story,

But none could beat mine:

Hendrix at the Aud, sneaking out to

See it, wearing yellow bell bottoms

With blue pinstripes, the only I ever

Wore or stole;

It was a night of firsts: first concert,

First smell of pot, first toke on a joint,

First snowball fight with Mitch Mitchell and

Noel Redding, first time in a taxi,

Paid for by them after I missed my ride;

“Take your hat off,” someone in the cheap seats

Yelled at Hendrix, “I’ll take it off

If you take your pants off,” Jimi replied,

I don’t even remember the music

I was so overwhelmed by it all,

And, after having the taxi leave me

At the top of my street, I shed my

Bell bottoms and tossed them in a

Neighbor’s bushes, never to be seen

Again, then made my way down my street

In a blinding snowstorm, nobody the wiser

As far as I would ever know.

 

Steppenwolf, with songs like “The Ostrich”

And “Monster” were a Howard Zinn

History lesson in the guise of a

Rock song waiting to happen,

Turning out to be the most prescient

Lyricists of their generation

(Who would have thought?)

Though I doubt many listened to them for

That reason, but not surprising for those who knew

John Kay had been through the shit as a child,

And was lucky to be alive.

SYMPHONY / a new poem by Tom Evans

Lie down and hear the music.

Brahms.

Hear the melody as it moves,

The blend of the instruments,

The cadence of the violins.

Imagine the shadowy dancers

Waltzing on the polished floor,

Revolving, pausing,

Beginning again.

Feel the breeze

Through open windows

As it ruffles clothes and curtains.

See the tent of sky above,

The stars in the dark night,

As the music envelops you.

Brahms.

Alms for the weary soul.

 (But I Didn’t Die) / a new poem by Tom Evans

A.A.’s kidnapping and drowning

When I was a child, horrified me,

And still does.

It was an image of my

Own childhood —

To be taken away

In the midst of play —

What to say to the little

Brother (almost a twin)

Left behind?

He, too, came home

To an empty room.

 

You say — “We have packed your things

And are moving away.”

Away, today, from Jewett Parkway.

 

 

 

 

 

Say It Isn’t So / a new poem by Tom Evans

Days of summer gone.
If I had written a line like that,
Joe Bolton, I would have died
A happy man.

Why did you do it,
Were you half in love with
Easeful death?

How did you do it?
Did you bite your tongue?
I would understand
If that was the case.

You see, I have these questions.

The seasons, each one wistful
In its own way, but especially
Summer, which you chose, Joe-
Evanescent- lingering echoes,
Distant strains of music
Fading in and out,
Vestiges of the past that you can
Imagine, remember, and even see,
But never quite put your finger on,
Much less grasp.

And though you grieved
Summers past
You did it in
Marshy spring,
Not wanting to see
Another summer come
And go, I suppose.

Your poetry is full of
Lost loves, ghosted memories
And empty beds—
All unrequited.

I get that
Joe Bolton
And who am I
To say you nay?

But summer
Came anyway.

And couldn’t you
Have at least
Stuck around
To tell us
If it was worth
The strength it takes
To see another
One through?

Instead you
Left us
With a wordless
Answer.

Say it isn’t so Joe Bolton!