At Lucky's Tavern, which is COVID-slow,
a jukebox pumps the past into the air.
Whoa, it is thirty, forty years ago—
Grunge, Metal, Hip-hop, Disco. Why stop there?
I warp on: Bull Run, Concord. I am with
Columbus and Cortez (those mad explorers),
then Sioux and Mandan, since, to get the myth
that is America, with its sacred horrors,
you gotta range at random, man, run wild,
communing with it all: the misfit spirit,
the snake-bit dissident, the touched stepchild.
I don’t reach El Dorado but get near it
from where I’m sitting, staring at the heart of
this fucked-up fabled dreamscape I’m a part of.
. . . . .
Line 1 was: "At Lucky, which is dim and COVID-slow"
Line 4 was: "Grunge, Hip-hop, Metal. Disco. Why stop there?"
Line 9: "you gotta" for "one has to"
This is strong.
I wonder whether the ending might hit harder if the poem had given us clearer hints about how the speaker participates in this fucked-up dreamscape. All we know is that he shops at Lucky, which can connect him to a lot of economic abuses, but only if the reader supplies those connections. (I'm assuming he's not the stepfather abusing a child.)
"You have to" or even "ya gotta" might better match the rest of the poem's language, but maybe the variety, the implication that the speaker stands for many people, the "one has to" as well as the "random, man" is intentional. Certainly the speaker is erudite.
"Sitting" near the end suggests that the speaker's reflections on America have outlasted his shopping trip. I'm not sure that's helpful.
After reading the first stanza I had hoped it was going to continue with the jukebox-as-time machine — But you dropped the jukebox metaphor like a hot potato. Yet he voice is fluid and the rhythm and rhyme are music of their own.
I don't know if this is complete. You breeze through epochs like a checklist. It ends back in the present epoch of the hip that are quick to disparage. I like it, but don't know that you've said anything other than that the speaker is a skeptic.
But, as always, it's a breeze and a pleasure to read your verse.
Aaron, I love the dual-rhymes spirit/near it; heart of/part of. I also note that a “touched” child could be one that mentally challenged.
Thank you, gentlemen.
I have revised the first line to clarify that the setting for the poem is a bar. Also, thank you for the "you gotta" suggestion--I think that's better.
I started writing a poem about music, the past and memory, but, after a few drinks and, perhaps under the influence of our political situation as well, wanted to do something bigger. I fear the first poem I intended would have been predictable.
thank you very much. Yes, "touched"--I do intend it in the sense of "whacked" or "crazy," though I am comfortable with the uncomfortable implications of molestation as well.
What do you think of the revisions?
“COVID-slow” means what? I think a reference that touches on universal daily experience should be easier to understand than decorative surrealism, for example, might be. Otherwise, some of the catalogue is more immediate than other items. All should be there, however. “COVID-slow”?
I like your revisions, as "At Lucky's Tavern'' is clear, whereas I didn't understand where "At Lucky" might be. (Is it a chain, similar to Walmart, or something?)
However, I did understand "Covid-slow" to mean an establishment where the rules governing this pandemic are ignored: no face masks, no sanitizing, no social distancing, no wiping down of tables and chairs etc.
I'm not sure why you had a problem with the phrase, Allen, but, having said that, I didn't get what "I warp on" means!
Executed with your usual aplomb, Aaron!
Allen and Jayne,
thank you both.
Yes, Allen, I think that living language is a catalyst in poetry. "Covid-slow" is an idiom I have heard around town--business can be "slow" or it can be "Covid-slow."
Jayne, I am glad my revisions have clarified the setting.
By "warp" I mean "time-warp"--an idiom from Sci-fi and popular culture.
Aaron, I like this. One minor point: the list of music genres doesn't transport me back in time the way the narrator is transported back in time. "Grunge" and "disco" certainly do, but "hip-hop" bounces me back into the present (my first association with the word is contemporary hip-hop rather than old-school). "Metal" would be OK if I hadn't been bounced by "hip-hop," since I do think of the eighties as the heyday of metal. Also, I wasn't sure whether you were trying to draw a straight line backward in time (grunge-->hip-hop-->metal-->disco) or giving a mish-mash of music from the late 70's to early 90's. If you're trying for a straight line, something like "Grunge, Metal, New Wave, Disco" might be more effective for me. Again, a very minor point - disregard if it doesn't work sonically or for the mood.
(Allen, I assumed "COVID-slow" meant business at the bar was slow due to COVID restrictions / people not going out because of COVID. Edit: posted this before I saw Aaron's clarification.)
Hello, Mr. Glenn from the battleground state of Pennsylvania. I see your point. I think I want to keep Hip-hop if only to hint at the diversity of America. But you are right--the chronology is off. Hip-hop originated in the mid-70s in the Bronx. I am going to go with:
Grunge, Metal, Hip-hop, Disco. Why stop there?
It sounds better anyway--I get more sonic play with the "hop" and "stop" to my ear.
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