DINNER WITH THE BLUES
Just look at these petunias, plush and red
as arterial blood,
leaves soft as fondled money.
Nothing means what we mean it to mean.
And that’s the part
I can’t ever get right, asking
in a true voice for joy, and receiving.
Don’t we almost always make
the mistake of confusing
what’s beautiful with what we starve for,
the delusive light reflected
moon-blue and cold as leftovers from the withered past
where it seems we seldom got anything
when we were ready, when we needed it most?
Beauty’s no cure for the blues.
This is the oblique sadness of dropping in
and out of love, how we believe
it must by nature be beautiful to fall,
the way memory longs for what was to come,
how Mother and Father would look
unmistakably, perfectly, at us
if we were good, if only
we were good.
Even blue flowers can’t cure
the blues, they only attract
more butterflies, which are beauty
decocted from worms.
Just look at this foxglove
spiking the path beyond the window. It cures
something, though just now I don’t recall what.
Some people say that listening
to the blues can make the blues
taste sweeter, and I know a player
who claims that to play
Satie on his Ramirez makes the blues
take a hike. But, as always,
I’m doubtful. I know how good work
can make the blues
walk the long mile from home,
but they always know
how to plant themselves in the seat
on the Greyhound bus beside you,
how to borrow a map and read the fine
blue lines like veins.
The blues have practiced to perfection
the art of showing up just before
a good dinner you’ve worked all day to prepare,
of waltzing in
and pulling up a chair at the head
of the table, of taking the rarest slice
of prime rib, the crispest browned potatoes.
And after the blues tell you to get
rid of the flowers and turn down Bill Evans
because they want nothing more
than to see your candle-streaked face
and hear your slowest whisper,
you begin to feel that asking them in
after such a long journey
was, after all, the right thing,
the only thing to do.
—from Rattle #26, Winter 2006