Eight Lo-Fis
Sing Sing

Eight Lo-Fis

                         for Stephen Burt


The radio show
I would have hosted
in the swing era,
before I was a child,
and (the point) before
I was the child I was,
would have drawn Alma and Buzz
from the squirrel parts
asizzle in the lard
on the iron skillet
on the iron stove,
to dance them one-side-black
to Cab Calloway
belting “Happy Feet,”
table giggled aside,
the wide eyes on one kid
and the caterwauling
from the other be damned,
those flimsy floorboards
setting even the chairs
to jitterbug.


I never felt quite
like a girl, but then
I never felt much
like a boy, either.
It wasn’t an issue
of outfits and hair,
of alienation
from my westmoreland,
or indecision
before the array
of possible urges
and dispositions.
It was the feedback loop
(or lack of one) then
that even now I try
to talk myself out of.
Or talk myself into.
My anaesthetic
immortality ode:
the child is father
of the bland.


This one world is not
enough for anyone.
But about my others:
they weigh on this world
with what does not matter
in them. They bring about
consequences here through
what does not happen there.
As when a woman there
rides an elevator
and two floors down a man
gets on. Both look away,
he up, she to the side.
He fidgets with his tie,
she with one earring.
He does not say, Cold front
coming through tomorrow
nor she, My sister
and her son live on six.
Sometimes I keep him
when she works nights.


Not in those terms, though,
she corrected me.
Say it if you mean it,
or not if you don’t,
but say it in the way
it has to be said.
There is a way,
she said.
She said, You’ll know it
when you say it, not
before. You’ll know it,
but not in those terms,
not the terms in which
it presents itself.

She said she would say
nothing else until
I said what she said
she wanted to hear,
but not in the terms
I misunderstood as
the terms she wanted me
to say it in.


Was I ever what
I could not be now?
That boy in mother-cuffed,
stiffly knee-patched jeans
and hand-me-down plaid shirt
(bad fit, a tad tight)
behind the open hatch
of a Rambler wagon,
two-toned but mud-sullied,
gravel-dinged and crabwise.
Would I want to be?
Those high-tops, that buzz cut.
Bragging with both hands
a sagging catfish
he holds up by bracing
his elbows on his ribs.
At the edge of the frame,
a man with white sideburns
holds half a dozen rods,
all those bright bobbers
long washed out.


I think constantly
about music. I think
in music, I think
as music. Dammit,
I am music. Music
made me me, made me
make music. I eat
music, I breathe music.
My first girl’s first name
was Music, as was
my first man’s middle.
When I spit, what I spit
is music. When I shit,
just guess. Music burns
the dew from my front yard
at dawn, music kisses
my back yard goodnight.
I believe in Music,
maker of all that, though
never quite, is as that
which was should have been.


I speak because I seek,
and in order to seek,
shame. I am of shame
an archive, my holdings
catalogued, stored offsite,
in constant climate,
underground. With shame
an orchid (shame’s mate,
the bloom that replicates
its pollinating bee).
I am to shame as one
calling weakly into
poison-ivied woods
out back to what shimmied
through the loose fence board,
lured by the musk of deer
but, surely as swimmers
shiver, soon to fall
to a fiercer or starve,
beyond the compass
of its name.


“Was I ever what…”
is the key poem here.
Never was there such
a home-barbered boy,
never a Rambler
so far off-kilter,
never grandfather
so scruffy and smug.
Never, I protest.
Never a cowlick
so mother-slathered
but hopelessly askew.
Never such yellow bobbers
bought at Ben Franklin,
so much twenty-pound test.
Never will be one man
more set on otherwise
than as he was
than he
whose each next song sings,
as each last song sang,

H. L. Hix’s most recent books are a poetry collection, I’m Here to Learn to Dream in Your Language (Etruscan Press), and an art/poetry anthology, Ley Lines (Wilfrid Laurier University Press), both published in January of 2015. He likes to write early in the morning, when it is quiet enough to hear the mice busy in the walls of his studio.


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