portion of the artwork for Charles Leggett's poem

Hard Listening: The New Year
Charles Leggett

Stevie Ray’s not giving up on love.
Meanwhile, one buddy’s wife wants out of it

in favor of an office romance; one
is signing papers now; another sweats

down at Ruth’s Chris and goes to Meetings, his
lady having given up on him.

Meanwhile, a smoke with PDO, a stoop
on 1st and Yesler, at a housewarming;

hellos, goodbyes to partygoers, then
we get down to it. Tears are streaming down

both cheekbones, Peter saying that I must
forgive myself. The gut-knot tightens as

it dawns that in the eyes of all our friends
glisten mirrors of foregone conclusion.

The future teeters with its fright-wigs, on
the Metro buses, with its limps and canes,

quaint clothes, hunched backs, bad coughs, its withering
visages of pure and blindest sorrow.

Black ice on the streets, the buses hunched
curbside like camels resting at oasis.

“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” as I light up.

*               *               *               *               *               

covering the waterfront she asks
“will the one I love be coming back to me?”

and I say he would not have left sweet voice
if it need not have been    so likely not

best to move on    he having left you once
who’s to say he wouldn’t leave again?

if past that you are looking you’re obsessed
pleasantly or no—sooner or later

no obsession feeds creating art
from life    can also starve the living of it

for this I vouch    as I must    as I must
For this, and thankfulness for mysteries

of song and of musicians one may know of
or not know of (or think one knows but doesn’t);

and not for engineered admeasurements
of sonic gerrymandering two hundred

seconds long with rhythm guitar parts
a child could play, the song yoked to the players;

rather for melody as precious ghost
by which musicians place themselves in service

of being haunted; syncopation found
through rage as well as calm invention; looseness

jarred loose through suffering, not eased out like
a smooth and effortless One Percenter’s b.m.;

not sonic limits measured—time itself!
Try telling me Milt Jackson’s vibraphones

do not sound like an angel’s wings that beat
on winds of God’s own breath so I can punch

you in your face, then box your ears, that you
may wake up powerless except to listen.

The Walkman radio lying on my chest;
old scruffy flannel, half its buttons missing;

brown leather jacket with disabled zipper;
blue jeans with no knees; my dying sneakers;

writing down George Benson, Benny Wallace;
Jacqui Naylor, live at Yoshi’s: “Birdland”

conflated with a Talking Heads tune one’s
flung “Once in a Lifetime” college limbs

about in time with. Nailer wails “My God”—
drawn now, helpless, down the warming sluice

of empathetic commonality,
the one-size-fits-all template for projection

pop music drowns our sorrows in—“My God,”
she screams on my behalf, “what have I done?”

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 46 | Fall 2015