JAM SESSION | DICK LOURIE


LISTENING TO MUSIC

1
“Blues in the Night”

I close my eyes to listen but last night’s
dream turns up to distract me: with a big
kitchen knife I’m preparing a fish for
our dinner    when it moves I’m terrified

what should I do:    kill it quick to avoid
causing more pain    but the blade won’t go in
deep enough    I can’t tell if the music
is making me less afraid or more    now

I recall that old Gestalt therapy
trick where everything in the dream turns out
[in fact to be you—so am I the fish
the knife    am I this music hauling up

the dream from where it would rather stay?]

 

2

“Piece of My Heart”

in another dream—closer to morning
when I can’t distinguish the dark from the
light—I am being guided by Lor Gill
through a difficult passage in a wood

with a firm hand on my arm as if he
is the older    even though when I first
saw him he was an infant in Elaine’s
arms    yet here he grins like a big brother

and though when I wake I know that he’s dead—
motorcycle crash at thirty-three—in
the dream all I noticed was the beauty
of his youth and how I trusted him

 

3

“Gymnopedies”

Denise in class always told us that dream
is our channel to the unconscious: to
be respected for its wisdom    and so
I used to write down every dream    quickly

afraid I’d forget it    sometimes now I
turn up the radio    make breakfast    read
the paper    afraid I’ll remember it:
like this morning    but now even late in

the day my mind is too clear so this dream—
familiar—coolly presents itself:
I just can’t get on the bus with all these
shopping bags    takeout coffees instrument

cases and no one will tell me what to
do    not Denise dead now twenty years and
not Satie—though I can hear that he’s trying

 

4

“Night Train”

no wonder it’s been said music is the
perfect art: here when it’s here    sufficient
then gone    record it if you must listen
again but you’ll never see or touch it

the others try hard but always seem to
leave things lying around: stone words paint splash
blade    crash    hand on your arm    nagging smell of

someone’s mortality    who might that be?

no wonder I took up the sax    how else
could I even approach perfection—at
night in the bar like the best kind of dream
I strap it on and by dawn forget everything

 


OBJECT PERMANENCE

when we go somewhere together I like
to be first out the door    “I’ll wait in the
car”    my wife closes up so I won’t fret
about checking the stove and all the locks

if one of us goes and the other stays
I like being the traveler: as in
the old song: “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home
To” and so she is each time   nice by the

fire . . . under stars chilled by the winter . . . all
that I could desire . . . August moon burning
above . . . so nice paradise while if it’s
me at home her out I’m thinking instead:

supermarket mass murder kidnapping
car crash—“The Wreck on the Highway” I went
to the scene of destruction but I didn’t
hear nobody pray     I guess this means I’m

stuck at that earlier stage in the life
of infants: they will get upset when you
leave the room because for them you have ceased
to exist    they don’t yet grasp that there is

any “world” outside themselves    later they
develop “object permanence”    (could there
be a better name for a rock and roll
band?)    they know that all existence does not

depend on their presence    this is of course
a comfort    they’ve realized that you will
be back    while for me at home there’s nothing
except her absence    but with luck we will

get old together and maybe by then—
her face    her body so familiar—I
won’t lose sight of her in my mind even
when one of us walks out into the dark


FEBRUARY 1981: THE SYSTEMATIC MURDER OF BLACK CHILDREN

This is not a political poem:
giving out your “views” as they say in that
sense of democratic debate    kicking
it around in discussion and argument

would be in this case a distraction    so
I went with a title that’s plain fact you
could quickly verify: just discovered
in Atlanta the body of the 17th

(seventeenth) Black child murdered within the past
year such a fact laid out so simply    hard
to forget    might stick in your head awhile
reminding you—maybe—whenever you

see a Black child    that they are miraculous
what do I mean? we need to behave of
course with love and respect toward all
children but as for Black children you have

to remember that someone is out to
kill them    why?    because they are Black children
and so let them command your loyalty
your most clear and fierce attention    they are

rare they are in peril fewer of them
will survive    those who do are yes miracles
you must treat them like the bearers of your
only hope for an end to the murders of Black children.


“FRIENDS IN DREAMS” (SECOND DRAFT)

when I wrote this poem the first time I—
like you—was of course further from my own
death than I am now    in that first draft (if
I can call it that) dead friends enter our

dreams “through the parking lot” where we

maybe
have forgotten our appointments with them
there is some comfort in that we can see
their faces but they remain distant    but now

twenty years later    as you’d expect    it’s
not the same: here is Big Jack Johnson    he’s
moved closer to me    Jack who let me play
with his blues band one night and kept me there

who brought me to Clarksdale Mississippi—
thus changing my life    now Jack stands in

my
doorway not speaking though his smile is
just as I remember    and the next night

here’s my pal Emmett who invited me
to start up a poetry magazine—
thus changing my life    Emmett too comes
close    maybe he’s about to read me one

of his new poems    wouldn’t that be a
trip as we used to say    do the dead keep
on writing poems?    well anyway these
two were both silent though welcoming    if I

dream again perhaps Jack will smile and say
“look out Dick grab that sax and back me up”
Emmett might really show me that poem—or
even hand me a guitar so I can

strum along in my basic way while we
sing together “I come to the Garden
alone while the dew is still on the roses”
such dreams I guess might be pointing to my

own progress toward some end    I have a

sense
of what that might be though I’m not sure—I
think next time I will ask them about it

Note: The Hymn, “In the Garden Alone” is by C. Austin Miles.


Dick Lourie is a poet and musician (sax, trumpet, guitar), who has been practicing both professions for more than fifty years. He lives in Chelsea, Massachusetts. These poems are from his book Jam Session and Other Poems (Hanging Loose Press) forthcoming this fall. In much of his poetry he seeks to infuse his work as a poet with his work as a player of roots, blues, and jazz music.

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