Bio Note: In the company of my wife and writing companion Debbie, I have lived, gardened and raised five children on our plot of land in rural southwest Ohio. I pick bluegrass music with my neighbors and run and walk the trails on our farm and nearby woods and fields. I am relatively new member in the world of poets and poetry – a world I have found incredibly hospitable and healing in these last few years. Most recently I’ve had poems appear in Rattle and upcoming in Minyan and Whale Road Review.
My Son Cries and I See Both Sides Now
with lines and phrases borrowed from Joni Mitchell lyrics in italics The Queen of Folk is holding court and making every jester cry. YouTube commenter “Acoustic Shadow” My god, Joni. You messed me up when I was a teen, my rock and roll brain buried deep in Led Zep and The Dead. I felt like a child listening to you, all those moods that consumed me - I had no words and you hymned them into me, conjured that lonely road I was traveling. I knew I ached to be some girls’s old man, to lie with her under a starry dome, to be the guy who rambled and gambled, unfettered and alive, like it was me, not you facing the sea on that album cover, your body so imperfectly beautiful which made skinny me feel free to be nakedly imperfect. It was too dangerous to want you, but maybe I could hold hands with Judy or Lindy which would be all I really really wanted to do. So when my 20 something son sends me a link, texts “Joni’s singing and I can’t stop crying,” I click and wonder why he cried. Then I saw what he saw - you singing “Both Sides Now” in a way no one had heard before, you tenoring today from that stage overlooking Newport Sound, so blue you could sail away – but here you are – not the young soprano smashing glasses down at the Mermaid Café, hanging with red, red rogues– but a new one, whose seasons have gone round and round, who looked behind from where she came, whose illusions had played their games on a thousand thousand stages, you, who for a moment couldn’t bring yourself to sing about tears and fears and feeling proud. Because yes, you’ve changed. And yes, we’ve both lost and gained living every day which is why, I think my 20 something son cried like I did. And how could he not? How can we not hear in the spaces between your words, the cadence that none of the sweet jesters on stage could follow lest they fall into the well you’d left uncovered – your life of dreams and schemes, and false alarms? And no, teen me and all our wondering sons really don’t know life at all so you sing it into us, you hearing your own song for the first time – which is why, when all was sung, the warm chord of your delight played on. You sigh, and your smile overflows with such sweet laughter– you as surprised as we were. You say what we would say to you: “Oh, That Was Beautiful.” Oh, that was beautiful.
This year, I swear. No more killing raccoons to save my tomatoes. I will erect the electric netting before they get their first taste before the tomatine ripening that draws us greedy beasts to rip skin with teeth, sup the sweet beneath. Everyday I watch the reddening, anticipate that first bite, that warm drizzling down my chin and wonder how a man can deny a fellow lover of such things the fruits of such patience.
Implicating You in the Crime of the Last Half Eon
Did you know that bleeding horseshoe crabs is a thing, that half-a-million a year are captured on racks, strapped in by black bungees as their milky-blue blood is drained from them, that this is no abstraction like love or antiquity, that these creatures lived before plants began on land, before Gondwana met Pangaea, before the five great extinctions, (which were not abstractions) and now we scrape them from the sea for a liquid more dear than mercury or Chanel No. 5 (which I read was the only thing Marilyn Monroe wore to bed, which led JFK to abandon Camelot) and that Jesus had 5 scars and Moses 5 books and Coco Chanel thought women shouldn't smell like flowers, that they should smell like women, which is an abstraction, or like laundry - which is not - and that without horseshoe crab blood, you might be dead of E. coli, or of some contaminated drug? But you’re not. And the crabs are, or at least they will be, dead, that is– this arthropod having survived the Ordovician, but likely not homo medicandus which is just fine so long as they live long enough to be of help for me, which is not an abstraction, don’t you agree?
Originally published in Blue as an Orange” Issue 1
©2022 Dick Westheimer
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