"blues in a heat wave"
written with brief pumps of rowdy southern blood by jake kilroy.
when my head swam through that sapphire bar in new orleans,
my spirit dragged light behind me,
a glowing wake
from a star-shouldered stumble
awash in a pollution of hope,
proud but not perfect,
more gonzo than groucho,
with senses spun,
shaken not stirred,
dragging lines so trite you could walk 'em back twice,
before finally getting the rug pulled out from under me
so i could fly.
"say, what's in this whiskey?"
"i don't understand."
fine conversation skills for a talker
who smuggled in a mouth keen on its bourbon scrub,
selling a smile as brittle as an upstart's ego,
as loyal as a long shot, as crazy as washer eyes,
as moving as a poem read in an earthquake,
and that's only act one—even though the playwright's spaced.
still, i kept pace in a tailspin that could've been ballet,
head over heels for a drunker redhead in glasses,
snapping fingers to remember why she's familiar
before realizing she reminds anyone of everyone
this married to the road.
ah, glory be mayhem and music
when it's this hard to tell the difference;
all of us with songwriter business cards
though we've only got karaoke in our bones.
all of it blasts like background noise,
adjacent to the dying wish of a sunset,
booming love songs crashing through smoking patios,
hearing mockingbirds hum some lovebird tunes,
knowing what women are in season,
promising heaven in a courtyard,
delivering hell in the relationship,
and here i twinkle talking up the waitress
about what shelters she works at on weekdays.
you're in it for the fight of your nightlife,
i tell myself—or at least one of me—
and wonder if any part of my teenage heart still rattles.
what would you have from us beyond youth?
it's the only thing we're good at.
it's the only thing we love.
it's the only thing, many say,
as we beg god to go from death bed
to hospital bed to "your own bed"
to some gal's bed you can't name
(with a return to pillow forts as optional).
hot damn on the hottest night,
this pub crawl could last all life.
here, a marching band interrupts the jazzinites,
old friends trying out new jokes,
quaintly adored, always with rhythm,
them cats cut their veins by way of brass
to pour out a blue only known to us
by how we abuse depression for glory,
promoting the broken artist battle
while swinging the profits to get help.
so i watched hands curve around hips
like ten snakes taking a post-adam eve
to the dance floor of a wilder jungle
and i suddenly couldn't recall how i used to
write more little black books than poems.
but then the band stopped to drink
and a blues song strutted out of the speakers
and i was suddenly home
without knowing any of the words.