portion of the artwork for Charles Leggett's poem

Hard Listening: Lines of Questioning
Charles Leggett

What I’d say to an adolescent son:
it has its own pull; doesn’t need much from me
in the way of words. It’s nature’s big, blunt tool;

the poetry is left to us. Be kind,
be thoughtful, be considerate and listen.
Next question: what would be my wish for him?

No serious errors made, and nothing in
the way. If different, how, from what I’d wished for?
Screen goes blank with wishing    nest of pure

of unadorned and unperverted sadness
and empty stands the modest pedestal
on which for years reclined the boldest beauty

I’d ever in my life sought after    sadness
like a warm kiss from the moon saying welcome friend
you’ve been touched by a human life and human life

has touched you marked you traveled through and trammeled
over you taste it in this gleam of mine
before the sun comes up and angles change

as they must    as they must    as they must

*               *               *               *               *               

Peripatetic shadows in the porch-light
work all you want    you’re a little November wind
at three a.m. announcing of yourself
all through the neighborhood to those not sleeping

swirling piano runs    chords deep and textured
like snow banks of a desolate Midwestern
sundown    blocks and blocks of them    stiff marches
home between them    “All I Ask” Ray Bryant

This “Use Me” cover grotesquely overwhelmed
with synthesizers like a solo act
on cruise ships or some low-rent Vegas lounge
albeit lacking brass horny enough

the syncopation should lay down the law
not cleverly skate by it    and Lou Rawls
having passed away they play “At Last”
in which he suavely croons that he’s in heaven

how can this night    can rhythm well unfold
can melody parse well its intervals
can anything end well without a Tommy
Flanagan to lead it into silence

*               *               *               *               *               

Sleepy out here now    the melancholy
strolls of entry-level geeks    it’s “Bye Bye, Baby”
I’m lucky still to have hold of the smoke

Raindrops    some heard singly    the rest a sheet
of subtle crackling    car alarm’s five shouts
love and mawkish sentiment and terror

pedestrian with hiccups    moans of distant
trains and broken hearts and bowling lanes
the rain it now occurs sounds like a friend

O I could use some symbols as alive
as any lifelong myth put into words
to use as though each wave each shaft of light

upon the sea each bramble hillock noon
were as words are!    each wobbling branch of dying
leaves    each window pane betraying light

each yellowed glistening wire and each train’s
soft bellow—words? then come the themes    a stable
canvas    palate used less to depict

than draw out from one’s seeing what is there
one’s consciousness etched out upon the scene
the scenery composing life before one

one’s vision scratched from surfaces themselves!
O force me to retrace these melodies
even as a pre-condition of

recognizing them at all    give me
a pondering of    a sidelong glimpse upon
the old words captured in an altered line!

*               *               *               *               *               

sad gadfly’s Thanksgiving    clarinet
melody lines of calling fowl and rhythm
just the air we breathe    a Dave Brubeck blues head
any moment will dissolve into
a bumping writhing wandering caravan

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