by Mark Goodman
RE: SOUTHERN ELEGY
Just two “good ole boys”,
Levon from the Arkansas delta, Harry south Georgia,
gone within a month of each other,
both with big obits in The New York Times.
Who said we don’t honor earthiness!
Wanderers who gathered in a complex country,
made some up, gave some back,
then settled down as venerated old coots:
Harry to college students and whiskey near a childhood home,
Levon to a Woodstock barn befitting his cotton-field voice.
Both carried the weight of gray-shacked country crossroads
in voice and words, standards now to document those times,
wild as a feast of snakes up on cripple creek
the night they drove old Dixie down.
RE: THE PERSON I KNEW
There were those Sundays in the 60’s
at the Village Vanguard,
soft background chatter and tinkling glassware
as your drone.
Gomez or the lost Lafaro your bassists
in sound now drawn up through time remembered
from secret sessions by an amateur recorder.
Quiet now, your waltz for Debby
was forever a requirement,
still fresh through the 70’s.
Were you ever without it,
a support through those drug-drenched years
spent bent strangely knome-like over keyboards?
All in the natural order of events,
the single set possible,
arranged by contingency
and properly fixed in place by poets
who turned out the stars when you left.
A NOTE TO CHALOFF
We’re told you chased the monkey off
before an early cancerous death,
your last Boston session in a wheelchair.
The pioneers died young you know
– except Dizzy and Miles.
Smack lent speed and skill
with triplets, flattened fifths,
then hung folks out like Faustus.
You probably thought
that over these sixty years
we’d lose your lines
as bop’s first baritone.
But yesterday I played back
through those throaty notes
to times in forty-nine
when sidemen were our heroes.
You’d be interested to know
that it turned out to be a revolution
not a musical cul-de-sac.
And some of us still remember
its young casualities.