Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Listening to the Beatles

It’s the plaintive opening that really gets me,
the wailing harmonica that indeed says love me do,
hopeful but not altogether confident,
like things could go either way.
It might as well say please me—please.

I might be cooking red beans
or driving to the drug store to pick up statins,
but the voices come through the speakers
that I can no longer locate in new cars.
Somehow I get there faster.
Maybe it has something to do with the theory of relativity,
but I suspect the answer is far simpler:
I’m a twelve-bar junkie, a hopeless day tripper,
a dreamer without the tie dye,
and no matter where I’m going,
any road will take me there.

It’s hard to decide which year to focus on
in the ten-year marathon from leather boots
to a lonely hearts club and beyond,
a backbeat that came full circle
to hard core rock and roll,
rolling over Beethoven
while everything still managed
to come together in unexpected ways.

Oh darlin’, I wish we had lasted longer
so that we could have relived it all together.
Remember when I told you
about the harmonica break,
the one you had never noticed?
We could have read the anthology together,
and I could have played through the catalog
on the Martin you saw in Cleveland.
Blackbird could have finished taking flight.
Really, I should have known better.

I still listen,
and the remasters sharpen the ear.
The drums are heavier,
the backing vocals more harmonic,
the acoustic wires cleaner than before—
it’s called bending the strings—
and they did it so well.
It’s 1964, and I’m in love with it
all over again.
It helps me get through the day,
through just about anything.
You said you understood that too.

The old bag of bones,
Grendel dressed in drag,
now long gone and doing God-knows-what,
told me I was a nowhere man.
Isn’t it ironic that years later
I became a paperback writer?

~William Hammett

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