I guess some poems have a second life, and that's just what has happened to me for the first time. A few years ago (try eight years!) I entered a poem called "In My Room" into the annual poetry contest sponsored by a local rag, The Independent. I was runner-up in their contest and was invited to read my poem to an audience assembled at The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, NC. I don't usually traffic in literary circles, much less read poems or attend poetry readings, so that was a unique experience.
But unlike many things I write, I have continued to like the poem beyond my initial infatuation with it, and so I entered it in a contest sponsored by Studio, an Australian journal of poetry and short fiction. I didn't win, but the poem has been published in their Winter 2009 Issue as a "Commended" poem, so I'm pleased with that. Studio is a great little journal, subtitled "A Journal of Christians Writing," and it avoids heavy-handed religious poems in favor of faith-infused literature.
If you read this blog much, you'll know I have a great admiration for Brian Wilson, the often troubled and yet amazingly gifted genius behind the Beach Boys (and much good independent, solo work). When I wrote this poem, I had never met him or heard him in concert, and he had long been in a troubled time. Having met him on more than one occasion now, it brings new meaning to it. And, I'm glad to say that he's doing much better. Well, it's about Brian Wilson, of course. . . and me. I imagined then that I had known him back then. . .
In My Room
Those days when I watched the
black vinyl turn, there
in my room, with the curtains sealed,
The voices playing sad & sweet,
I found myself
Standing outside your house on West 119th
listening for your father's ranting, his
maudlin songs, from the cookie-cutter
house with the foolish, self-infected man,
until, screen door flapping,
You caught my arm and we ran,
laughing, from that dark energy,
until we lay down on a field there
in Hawthorne. Even then, it was the
sound of your dreams that brought me
Back to the black vinyl turn, the
crackling energy screams of the
girls on the beach, there, miles from
salt & sun, in my room.
I had my dreams too, & you knew, as we
Spent hour upon hour there in
Lishon's Record Store & Melody Music.
Ricky Nelson, the Four Freshmen, the
Four Preps, the Everly Brothers --- yes,
we had our dreams, yet we had our
harmony & counter-harmony, even then.
Behind four walls I could hide,
shut down & lost inside myself,
steeling myself for lonely, hurt, & pain
sheltered beneath your wall of sound.
Like you, my peace was in the
music & the dream, where I
could go, where you were there
Riding in your 57 Ford, pink & gray,
all whitewalled & waxed & chrome. From
the Wick Stand on Slausen to the A&W on
Hawthorne, we'd cruise with the windows down &
heat up high talking "honeys on the lot,"
drinking beer & watching movies, there,
on Sepulveda, chasing empty from our gut.
Then one night
On Redondo Beach, we watched the
surf & laughed & sang until darkness
blue & heavy pounded sand,
pounded you, & crying I pulled you
from the water. Maybe it was the crazy
in your cold blue eyes, but since then
We've gone our ways, you & I, but
sometimes, alone in my room, I still
think of you there on that field in
Hawthorne until the darkness came &
current carried you away.
We don't talk much now.
You don't get out much now.
But sometimes, when I close my eyes,
I can hold you even now, in my prayer.
Goodnight, Brian Wilson.