from GLOBE TOUCHING
What force maintains the shapes that maintain us
if not our breathing exactly, the places we get away to
before and after work. Just kittens, in a house. I know
it’s got to go. It will. Some men, my friends
speak beautifully of things they’d miss most of all
the shapes made possible by slavery—the pop
the jazz the blues, record collections unworth spinning
even if you could, after the situation of their having been
made were destroyed along with any kind of person
who could even understand it, including yourself.
It’s got to go. It will. I guess the most beautiful is whatever
you most desire. I don’t get it. I say that and Madame George
comes into view, sunlight on a dirty windshield
the dry green afternoon
I’ve only been gone a little while and your face
slips out of range. I miss it. I’m driving
towards you. I’m lucky. The song still gets me
to take it seriously. Please let this poem not be
the Marianne Faithfull version, not Astral Weeks
either, not the love that loves to love although
I have loved that too. I mean the Madame George
from TB Sheets, half as long, unsweet, up against
a sick room. More about falling than what you’ve lost
what you’re going to. The Sweet Inspirations
on backup. Heather gave me that album or I took it
when we broke up. I did that to you too
with Pet Sounds. The lost objects of breaking up
so often music. Figured through it.
What did she tell me about Madame George
driving home to California, hers not mine yet.
Probably it is about drugs. I still don’t know
anything except how to feel in the car, inarticulate
moaning along. We gave the old man pepto
when he got carsick what were we thinking?
He was just a kitten then, for real.
We were coming from Spokane, a place so white
it felt satanic. She was not. It was very bad there
for her especially in ways I cannot fully account for
her best friend her first love dead less than a year
before we met. I was running away from home
out of Colorado into the Presbyterian college
where we spent a lot of time in a closet-sized single
dorm room watching Star Trek. Outside it was the 90s.
When we reached her grandmother’s house
in the valley it was late or it was early
and jasmine. I stepped on a snail in the half dark.
I wanted this to have that same smell
cool night air up against the bathroom door
the hallway lights begin to dim.
That’s when you fall.
You’re in the front room touching him.
Those lines don’t appear in the Madame George
Lester Bangs wrote about, the dreamy song
Greil Marcus discusses in his book
on Van Morrison. Into every love poem
a little Greil Marcus must fall.
He dismisses the version I love most of all
and worse than that the Sweet Inspirations
who he refers to as The Sweet Emotions.
Because something is wrong with my brain
because I believe I’m a dumb girl
and men of a certain class know more than me
about things like music, history,
Greil Marcus must know more than me
I spend I spend a lot of time attempting to figure out
if the Sweet Inspirations ever went by
The Sweet Emotions instead.
They did not. Greil Marcus is wrong.
He is also wrong when he writes
“If one’s response to that culture—
the culture as set down by a small number of people
in Mississippi and elsewhere in the American South
from the late 1920s to the early ‘40s—
is as strong as Van Morrison’s plainly was,
how can that culture not be
in the deepest sense one’s own?”
Cissy Houston founded the Sweet Inspirations
it’s their voice I love in the song. Cissy Houston
with Judy Clay
with Sylvia Shemwell
with Myrna Smith.
They released nine albums. Sang with
Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Helen Reddy
and Elvis, toured with him as backup singers
and warm-up act. In a recording session
on March 28, 1967 they provided backup vocals
for Morrison on his classic hit, “Brown Eyed Girl”
but in the liner notes for TB Sheets
some douche named Michael Ochs
claims the vocals were sung instead
by producer Bert Berns, Jeff Berry,
and Brooks Arthur, the session engineer.
Lauren is writing a poem about justice
including the endless details of injustice
trivia that makes the whole: “when a problem
touches every point / seeing it should require no art”
she says it’s like when people thought
the earth was made of turtles or
the earth was flat and rested on a turtle’s back
resting on top of another, turtles
all the way down. This story, obvious and old.
Complicated and not. The Sweet Inspirations version
of Madame George ends with all the little boys
coming around with gold cigarette lighters
in their pocket. Something gotten at her expense.
As they walk away from her—so cool.
The story goes that Morrison got screwed over
by the producer on those sessions.
I like the piece about his dad’s record collection
best in Ulster, acquired in Detroit, and at least
he says “if it weren’t for guys like Ray
and Solomon, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Twenty Feet From Stardom received nearly
universal positive reviews. Everybody knows.
Everything I love is born of brutal contact.
If Madame George is, like Bangs said
and Morrison denied, a “lovelorn drag queen”
why should that be the saddest thing
to write a sad song about? And if she is
the wife of Yeats, his medium and muse?
More or less sad? Morrison said it’s whatever
you want it to be. A swiss cheese sandwich.
That sounds a lot like a woman
or something a woman would make for him.
By now I have killed the song with listening.
35,000 walruses hauled themselves out of the sea.
Ice is harder and harder to come by.
The whole state on fire is no exaggeration
19 active another 10 or so contained.
Hospitals keep only a two-week supply
of plastic tubing on hand.
Between then and now
you took me to emergency
when I was projectile vomiting
and thought it was a heart attack.
You thought I was nuts until I explained
symptoms show up differently in women
can include exhaustion and a sense of doom.
Also it runs in my family.
Now we have a ziplock bag
of anti-nausea meds that dissolve
under the tongue,
so I am feeling pretty smart