I pay tribute again/East Coast Tribute

foto©robcullen10022015

I pay tribute again/East Coast Tribute

Recalling Browne’s

“For a Dancer”

I’m not sure

what it is

about these days

that reminds

me about those times

on the East Coast

and of that Christmas

in 73.

It wasn’t white

it just rained

grey mist collecting clinging

to the forests

on the hills

above Torrington

and so you agreed

to drive me to the house

of Harriet Elizabeth

Beecher Stowe.

So you asked

if I knew much

about her and so

I recounted her life

and you asked

how an Englishman

knew so much

about America

but you made

no reference

to black people

and slaves.

So I told you the title

of my thesis in 72

Racism and colonisation

and the way

I was brought up

in a non-conformist

Methodist tradition

you sighed

and just said

keep talking

I love the sound

of the way you talk

the way

you use words.

On another day

I paid tribute

to Dylan Thomas walking

across town

from second avenue

to Hudson and 11th

in some kind

of pilgrimage

to the White Horse Tavern

and sat still

on the shiny

red plastic

covered stool

at that long

dark wooden bar.

I ordered a beer

and recited aloud

his words

of rattling emptiness

in a place

where no hawk hunts

small birds

or sounds of child’s play

echoes shrilly

across a salt sea bay

words echoing

where a dead man

played his last

in a bar, in a city,

his presence

barely a glimmer of light

and feigned remembrance

all that now remains.

I much preferred

Finnegan’s Wake

on 1st and 73rd

the owner was

from Galway

it was where I’d meet

a Ukrainian postman

late at the end

of his shift

where we’d sit

drink Schlitz

talk about

songs and hymns,

or the days

he ran from

the Red Army Choir

the Russian cargo ship

in the Dock

in Cardiff, Wales

and he’d sing softly

Ar hyd yr nos*.

Lorca lived

for a while on 116th

near Harlem

a stretch

too far

in my white

friends eyes

but I walked there

anyway

and imagined

how this man

of Duende

and the deep songs

of the flamenco

loved this place

the sound of

its music and rhythms

the grace of the way

people smiled.

Lorca lived

for a while on 116th

near Harlem

a stretch

too far

in my white

friends eyes

but I walked there

anyway

imagining

how this man

of Duende

of the deep songs

of flamenco

loved this place

the sound of

its music and rhythms

the grace of the way

people smiled.

What would

Lorca have said

if he’d heard

the tone

of “Do not go

gentle”

and maybe

he too

would have

recognised

the Duende

in the Welsh blues

and so I recalled.

“By the East River

and the Bronx
boys were singing,

exposing their waists
with the wheel, with oil,

leather, and the hammer.
Ninety thousand miners

taking silver from the rocks
and children drawing

stairs and perspectives.”

It is the deep song

greets me

the deep song makes me rise

made me the man I was,

the man I am.

©robcullen1976.

Acknowledgement and thanks to Laura Garcia-Lorca and Garcia-Lorca Foundation for their kind response to this poem.

  • “Ar Hyd Y Nos” (English: All Through the Night) is a Welsh song sung to a tune that was first recorded in Edward JonesMusical and Poetical Relics of the Welsh Bards (1784).

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