Friday, June 30, 2006

Poetry Friday: The Word is HARMONY

Endless thanks to the effervescent and lovely Teri of Coffee Breath for offering up the Poetry Friday Word of the Day. As always, feel free to use the Word "Harmony" in your blog post today, in whatever creative bent wrinkles yer sheets...poem, photo, recipe, drawing of yer nekked self...whatever it inspires.

I've been singing ever since Teri posted the word. One song in particular, the one I use in my first story. I love the Indigo Girls, always have. (I'm singing again in my head.) I have a strong memory of singing "Closer to Fine" with a friend of mine in a now-gone local establishment, as we drank and ate the most wonderful sammies I've ever had. For some reason, that song = harmony to me. Oh, and the story is fiction, except for the singing and the food. That's real.

I'll be sporadic posting the beginning of next week, what with July 4th and the kids home on the 3rd. I will be trolling you when I can, and returning full force next Wednesday.

Have a safe, happy, and spirited (long) weekend, y'all!

There’s more than one answer to these questions

My sister always sang the harmony.

Me, I could barely carry the tune.

She didn’t care, though, didn’t care as we ordered another pitcher of beer and an order of soft breadsticks with queso dip.

I always brought the quarters. My crap job at the laundromat had the benefit of twenty-five-cent pieces, all I could carry.

Once the sweaty pulse of Pearl Jam and the angsty goth of Danzig filed out of the jukebox’s memory, I’d pump the deposit hole full of quarters and run down our set list. Dusty Springfield. Jim Croce. Old Elvis Costello. KC and the Sunshine Band (which always made my sister do a spit-take with her half-warm beer, she should have expected that from me, it was her own fault).

Mel Torme.

Each selection got me giddy. Or maybe it was the beer. Or just the fact that my big sister let me hang with her.

We’d eat and chat and play hangman on the cocktail napkins, flirt with the wait staff, talk shit and scratch our imaginary balls and point at the drunk 19-year old girls outside the window, kissing their boys and falling down.

“I’m trying to tell you something about my life
maybe give me insight between black and white
and the best thing you’ve ever done for me
is to help me take my life less seriously
it’s only life after all

Inevitably, she’d talk about her next surgery. I tried not to be too interested. Well, that’s not exactly right…I tried not to be too curious. The idea of this procedure, this whole journey, was like wanting to swim in a crazy stormy ocean…you want to, and you’re scared, and you’re exhilarated, and wondering what’s next and if you’re gonna die or ride that tidal wave in and end up like a sigh on the shore…AAAHHHHH.

We drank a lot of beer on those nights.

We hummed and mumbled and sang along to the music. When I couldn’t get the melody, she’d sing with me until my ears finally heard it, then she’d slip into harmony. She made me sound good.

“Well darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
and lightness has a call that's hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it
I'm crawling on your shores”

We always took the front booth, the one for 6 people that the manager let us two have. Didn’t hurt that I used to fuck him and he still had a thing for my skinny little body. He’d give us a free pitcher when we bought two, and I’d hug him when we left. A courtesy. Every visit I’d take the file from my nail clippers and scratch a notch in the windowsill at the right edge, to mark the Momentous Occasions of our Hanging Out. After a while, the wood started chipping from all the notches. So my sister notched the left side.

Sis had the most amazing stories of the ER front line, gunshots and stabbings, adulterous men whose frail hearts caught them in flagrante delicto. I’d sit holding my chin and my beer mug, laughing and shaking my head, while she hooted and whispered and wept and banged the table. Reality television in my own family.

“I stopped by the bar at 3 a.m.
to seek solace in a bottle or possibly a friend
and I woke up with a headache like my head against a board
twice as cloudy as I'd been the night before
when I went in seeking clarity.”

The metamorphosis was gradual, but noticeable. She cut her hair short, started shopping in the men’s section, all the stereotypical stuff you’d expect. She liked the feel of flannel shirts, and one Christmas I bought her 5 in different colours. Our hippie parents were unreasonably calm about the whole thing, although I did see my mother sobbing in her room once, when she found my sister’s baby book.

Our visits to the restaurant continued, every Thursday, except during surgery weeks when she was too doped up to move. Then I’d bring her soup from grammie’s recipe and movies with Jimmy Stewart.

When she was ‘done’, that is, when the surgeries were all over and the hormones under control and the itchy self-consciousness wore off, we decided that, for the rest of our lives, every Thursday we would meet at the restaurant. Beer and breadsticks and the jukebox full of laundry quarters. The singing changed, of course, as she was now more bass than alto, but the harmony was still there. Indigo Girls were still our favorite. And eventually, I didn’t even blink when I called her my brother.

“I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
there's more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in a crooked line
the less I seek my source for some definitive
(the less I seek my source)
the closer I am to fine
the closer I am to fine”


There was a girl
Who turned into a grasshopper
Quite by accident
One summer
As she lay sleeping
In sticky sheets
In a screened-window room
The calm too much
The rushing silence
The stars spying on her
Her legs found each other
Crooked and bowed
Rubbing together
The silky hairs singing
Slowness of skin
Fingers drumming soft tempo
Her wings splayed
Keeping loud time with the heat.

There was a boy
Who turned into a grasshopper
Quite on purpose
One summer
As he slept escape
From grinding turmoil
From the ideas in his head
The sound too much
The air too full
The moon interrogation
His legs found each other
Two brackets
Moving together
Little boy now man knees
Making quiet
Fingers rubbing a hush
His wings spread
Flying from the harsh light

The girl
Met the boy
The boy
Loved the girl
Lying before dusk
Atop a bed of green
Wings circled together like curled paper
Legs twined as
Her leg his leg her leg his leg
Grasshopper violins
Caressing harmony
On their sleepy skin


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