I’m wired and exhausted;
reading Anthony Bourdain
while I daydream about Tucson.
Right now all I want from life
is a carne seca chimichanga
— elegante style —
from El Charro.
Then, full and content,
we’ll hop on the scooter
to head out into the desert
so we can watch
the slow march of a storm
as it lays siege to the city.
T-shirts in February.
Same city, different partner.
Funny what a difference that makes.
(We – the first “we” – never watched
our wedding video. The second “we”
never made one.) I’m not afraid of
scorpions or tarantulas.
And I’ve been living in fear
of my fellow man long enough.
Hand me some fry bread.
mid-80s, knees wedged against
the vinyl bus seat
avoiding my fellow students
with a Sony Walkman
I had to bend the headphone cord
just so to listen in stereo
I still have good hearing today
despite blasting Signals
over & over at the limit
of those cheap headphones
later: band trip to Virginia, John & Scott
in the back of the bus
boombox across their laps, John on
air drums, Scott on bass
memorizing every note of Moving Pictures
(put sticks in John’s hands &
he could really play that stuff;
our hometown Neil)
later still: at the War Memorial
in the era of the rotating drum set
we heard the harp glissando
cheered ourselves hoarse as Neil
roared like the god of thunder
row after row of awkward teens
beating the air in unison
’91, Japan: borrowed room, borrowed CD player Roll The Bones on repeat
till Shoko banged on the wall, yelled — in the
Japanese I was just learning —
to turn it down (memories of my parents
buying me a stereo my mom
would never let me turn up)
this morning: false spring, older now
than he was then
out for my morning walk blasting Signals, Grace Under Pressure
water in my eyes but not from the rain
drums carrying the weight of years
all the memories wrapped up in those sounds
seems to me it’s chemistry
Got my uniform on again. Now, in addition to being
embarrassed by the fact of it, I’m also embarrassed
by the fit. I’ve lost twenty-five pounds and look like
a kid in my father’s clothes. And if there’s one thing
I no longer want to wear, it’s the legacy of my father.
Either of them. Anyway to cut the taste of defeat
I control the music. Me and my Bluetooth speaker
against the world, or at least the office. Right now
I’m playing the Japanese punk band Chai at a volume
that can only be called inconsiderate. I know. But
there are times when four young women screaming
in unison in Japanese is the only thing that will
shove the darkness back a few steps so I can get
a full breath in.
I’ve been learning how to cook more things recently. I started baking (soda breads and cookies) and then tried a larger project for New Year’s Day. I made red beans and ham hocks and rice and cornbread. It was fun and everything came out really well. New adventures!
I went back through the past ten years, nearly at random, to find a poem from each year. I’m not suggesting these ten poems represent everything I wrote or everything I went through, but they’re a little snapshot of the past decade. I hope you enjoy them. Some of you are in them.
Takes me back to my early days playing
latin jazz and salsa in Tucson bars.
When we were all the way on
whole rooms full of sweating dancers
would cheer, spinning, singing along. ¡Baila!
Me, a 20-year-old white kid with no business
among these grizzled Mexican and Puerto Rican
veterans of the local music scene. Playing the claves
like an elementary school kid with woodblocks.
“If you’re going to play them,” Ismael said, “PLAY THEM.”
Later he would tell me, during a flamenco tune:
“Clap like my mama’s making tortillas.”
(He offered me cocaine, drank Scotch during every set
till the tempos were elastic as putty.)
Later I would lay jazz melodies over the dance rhythms.
Will, the bongocero, said to a new trumpeter:
“Can you play them jazz songs like my man Jason?”
I floated off the floor in my cap-toed spectators.
MCA Records offered us a deal, so we got together
at Izzy’s house to lay down a bunch of music.
Izzy got coked up, missed the meeting with the execs,
the deal was off. But when we were on, man,
we were all the way on.