My brother still plays the vinyl
Weighs down the tone arm
of his record player with
more & more pennies,
stacked on, taped on, so
the needle will never jump
out of the groove.
The old music soothes him, doo-wop
three-chord rock, slow ballads with strings,
easy dances from an easier time
he won’t leave.
“It was the best time,” he says
of 1961, when he was fifteen
going on sixteen & The Drifers’
“Save the Last Dance For Me”
was barely a year old.
He knows by heart the color
of every 45 label.
coral, orange, red, yellow, black â€“
on capitol, Argo, Veelay, Tamla, Everlast â€“
what was on the flip side,
how long the cut,
how high it peaked
on the Billboard chart.
The music plays, drowns the sound
of father’s drunken beatings, of mother’s
obsessive attention to his erupting
skin, the constant wails of miserable
siblings he, as firstborn, was forced to raise.
With the sound cranked loud he can’t hear the
crackle of coral, orange, red, yellow, black
from our childhood house, the one he
set fire to, consuming his own rage
in those dancing flames.
From: What the Hearts Weighs,
Red Hen Press, Los Angeles, Copyright, 2004