Aug 27
Wednesday

Issue XII, Volume V : August 2014

Glenn Freeman - Poetry

Freeman-Poetry Glenn Freeman has degrees from Vermont College and the University of Florida. His collection of poems, Keeping the Tigers Behind Us, was published by Elixir Press. He has had poems published in journals such as Poetry, The Florida Review, The Cimarron Review, and The Lullwater Review. He lives in Iowa and teaches at Cornell College. These poems are all part of an extended sequence entitled Stumbling Home From Woodstock.

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Call Me Pearl
 
 
Shy Texas girl, taunted for her boyish looks—Oh,
they laughed me out of class, out of town,
and out of state—turned flamboyant, nothing
but style to cover the ache, feathered
 
boas, jangling jewelry, and the huge wire-rim
glasses like saucers hanging low
 
over pale cheekbones: no more words but
whiskey straight up, scratchy laugh, screams & strains
 
of a voice struggling to contain
the multitudes. Call me Pearl, she said.
 
Feet stomping the stage like Rilke’s
flamenco dancer while Big Brother
 
snakes & wails behind her: Summertime,
Ball & Chain, Piece of My Heart
: whole chords
 
poured into each note, her voice raw & taut
to the point of breaking: the self at its most
naked? vulnerable? Or just its most. Made fabulous
by dramatic gesture & flair, the blues
 
gone psychedelic. You’ve seen, perhaps,
the interview: back at Port Arthur High
 
for her 10-year reunion, now as royalty,
hairy entourage in tow, come home
 
to show them what fucks they’d been.
Her mother makes no bones, looks away from the camera,
 
says she wished she’d never been born.
Pearl smiles before the flood

of cameras and microphones, chuckles
like a finger poised mid-flip, but remains unable

to finish the cut, tell the world
what went down: what was it like to grow up
in Port Arthur? Trembling lip, bashful look
away: Umm, no comment. A nervous laugh.
 
Within the year, mother gets her wish.
 
 
 

Hendrix at the Fillmore
 
 
Bill Graham, so the story goes, asks Hendrix 
to forget the flash and effects, forget
the behind-the-back, playin’-with-your-teeth bullshit
and just play, Man, for me, and Hendrix
goes back onstage and plays two hours of straight blues,
cuts back on the distortion and feedback,
12-bar to the core, all style stripped down
to the bone: prophecy and vibrato, a whole city rising
up through his strings, as if the smoldering lives
of all the down-and-out have turned to cool smoke
he’s drawn into his lungs and now
exhales through the strings like vocal chords, I hear
that train a’comin, thrumming with all
the bodies’ longing, Tears burnin’ way down,
like the cables of the Golden Gate humming
in a foggy wind, searchlight pirouettes
on the underbelly of low clouds, like the drum and bass
beneath the moan and cry, the long notes,
sustain and tremolo, the dark continent behind us now
in the long shadows where the self disappears,
the voodoo chile himself lost in the flames, 
burnin’ away the feathers & silk, the wa-wa & wammy,
leaving only the bones, only ash. Isn’t that
what Graham wanted?  And what he got, so the story goes,
was as pure as it gets, the fiery ache and choir.
Good enough for ya, man? Graham
nods speechlessly and Hendrix goes out for the encore
he wants, all glory and pyrotechnics, fuzz and feedback,
hips thrust out, guitar behind the back, tongue flick and the sly
sexual smile, always stage left, back toward Bill: 
Here I am, Brother, here I am.
 
 
 

Tonight’s the Night
                     
for Neil Young
 
 
How we used to play those songs
summer night after summer night, the garage
doors shaking, and each of us faking
the rawest voice we could muster,
almost mocking the emotion, unknowing, a feeling
we didn’t even know we were trying to feel,
trying as you did on Vampire Blues to play a meaningful solo
using just one note, sustained and bent, but always
we wound up laughing and dissolving
into noise and feedback, another beer, another number,
then kick it up again:
Bruce Berry was a working man…
Today, driving south
through summer Iowa, listening
to your “ditch trilogy” again, I can hear
how no one could manage
what you did without
the same loss, voice & guitar
soaked in tequila & grief,
out of tune & unforgiving,
the needle & the damage & the road,
the smoke-filled coliseums, roses onstage
after you and Danny’d scorched the earth
with blazing, twining guitars.
Weeds & gravel in the shoulders.
Chamomile yellow lining
the sun-blazed freeway. Hawks
circle slowly over distant hills
nearly motionless as a hot wind rises
through the cottonwoods, the whirr
of tires like a constant
bass line, a metronome. Am I merely
old enough now to have felt enough
loss, to hear these albums as if
for the first time and to understand
what I’d missed for all those years,
that elegy refuses polish, demands
something slightly out of key and nostalgia
reveals the same
empty landscape in your rear-view window
as the one you’re driving toward?